How To Be Assertive For Better Adult Relationships

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Learn how to be assertive in adult relationships. Discover how it can help improve your physical and mental health. Read about the 4 approaches to situations and which one is healthiest.


Assertiveness skills are valuable tools for better adult relationships with family and friends. Discover why it is important for you to learn assertiveness skills and how to apply in your everyday life. Also, learn about the 4 ways most individuals approach a situation and what is most healthy.

This post on How To Be Assertive For Better Adult Relationships is part 2 of a 4-part blog series. Assertiveness 101 was covered in How To Be Assertive & Why It Can Help Your & Your Family.  Part 3 will pertain to helping kids learn to be more assertive with family, friends, and bullies. Part 4 will discuss how to be assertive in our modern world with an emphasis on social media, texting, and email.


When you learn how to be assertive, you will find several areas in your life improve. Personal, relational, and physical benefits are often experienced relatively soon after one practices and applies assertiveness skills.

I defined and explained assertiveness in  How To Be Assertive & Why It Can Help You & Your Family.  This information can help you formulate a plan on how to be assertive when necessary.

What Are Typical Times It Helps To Know How To Be Assertive?

As an adult, you may find yourself in awkward situations. Perhaps at work or with family? Maybe a friend is not acting or talking in a way that you feel comfortable?

Although you may have thought that childish and immature behaviors would have fallen away after your school years, petty disagreements and comments may still surround you. Gossip and other types of negative mud-slinging can greatly damage relationships at both personal and professional levels.

You may also find yourself as an adult being mistreated in volunteer positions. You are trying to do your best to help with an organization for your family or kids only to be taken advantage of or not appreciated.

At work, adults often find it hard to speak up in an assertive fashion to make their personal thoughts and feelings known. When you are responsible for bringing home a paycheck to support your family and yourself, you may find it extremely difficult to speak your mind for fear of losing your job.

You most likely learned your method of approaching a difficult situation from interactions with others as you grew up. Personality type can also play a huge factor in how you handle conflict.  Life experiences with family, friends, school, and work combine to create your approach to situations that need attention.

Or perhaps in these situations, you have absolutely no problem speaking your mind and letting everyone and their brother know just what you think?


Learn how assertive skills can help you to attain better adult relationships.

4 Ways Individuals Approach A Situation & What Is Most Healthy

(I will apply these 4 approaches to the example of a situation with a stranger:  in a parking lot where another person steals your parking spot that you have been waiting for. I make each example a bit extreme to demonstrate my point for each.)

1. Aggressive

When a situation is approached with aggression, the individual may be allowing feelings of anger to take control. They may perceive a threat or have a fear that something negative will happen to them if they do not attack first. Words are often blurted out without thought or care. Body language becomes forceful with muscle tension, out of control actions, and angry facial expressions.

In our example, an aggressive approach to the situation is:  "You blankety-blank! You are going to regret ever doing that! Get out of your car now & I'll show you whose parking spot that is!" as you roll up your sleeves while opening your car door, leaving your car in the middle of the lot.

Aggressive people often seek out conflict, picking fights to get a sort of adrenaline rush. They have a perpetual chip on their shoulder that they are just waiting for someone to push off (whether actual or not). Typically critical and with high expectations, aggressive individuals often deal with such physical problems as high blood pressure.

2. Passive

Situations are handled in a passive fashion when the person does nothing to make their thoughts and feeling known.  A common description for this type of approach is "acting like a doormat". A passive person will do whatever it takes, even if it hurts them, to make the other person happy.

In our example, the passive individual may react like:  "Oh dear! Well, even though I am really mad at that so-and-so, I won't say anything. It was probably my fault anyways. I must have forgotten to turn on my blinkers. I'll just search another 10 minutes for a parking spot even if it means that I'll be late."

Passive people often suffer from conditions of depression and anxiety. Physically, they often have digestive and sleep issues due to not expressing their thoughts and feelings.

3. Passive Aggressive

Passive aggressive tendencies can be some of the hardest to deal with and overcome. This combination of passive and aggressive words and actions can be confusing for both the individual and those affected by the passive aggressive behavior.

What does passive aggressiveness look like? It can be subtle, like a little jab here or a forgotten task there. It can be a delayed response, as the individual waits for the right moment to strike. Instead of dealing head on with a situation, actions and comments are made in an indirect manner.

In our example, the passive aggressive individual would respond like:  "Well, that (insert a not nice word about another person) did that on purpose! She doesn't even care that I've been waiting here forever! I'll wait until she is inside the store and then leave a nasty note (or do something worse!) on her car. Oh yeah, that'll show her!"

4. Assertive

As I explained in the first post in this series, assertive individuals use their words and actions to positively convey their thoughts and feelings about a situation. When assertive skills are used, the individual takes into consideration the other person's feelings (empathy).

In our example, an assertive response would be:  (rolling down the window in a calm manner) "Excuse me. I was waiting for that spot for 10 minutes. You may have missed my blinker, however, I did indicate that spot it mine. I need you to move your car and find a new spot."

Does this type of reaction always yield a positive response? Unfortunately, no. In those times, it is important to stay calm and reiterate your stance. Staying firm in your decision and not backing down.

Tip:  If you are being assertive and receive an aggressive response to the degree that you are afraid you or someone else could get hurt, exit the area immediately. There is a time to make a point and a time to place safety at the forefront. This type of negative situation might require professional intervention.

You can click on the image below to download and print for your own use:)

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Why It Is Important To Learn How To Be Assertive In Everyday Life

I shared how to be assertive in the first post. But why do we need these assertiveness skills in our lives?

Think about how you deal with a complicated situation. It could be with a family member, friend, at work, or in a volunteer position. Maybe you disagree with how a situation is being handled or something that is being said about a loved one? Perhaps you are being mistreated or given too much work to do with not enough compensation? There are many different scenarios that could create a reason for you to need to know how to be assertive.

It is important to use your assertiveness skills to protect yourself.  It is beneficial to your physical and mental health to have the capacity and ability to exercise assertiveness when necessary. Benefits of being assertive include:

  • improved self-esteem
  • increased self-confidence
  • self-awareness
  • improved communication skills
  • increased control of behaviors
  • being able to say no when necessary

When you are assertive, people in your life will respect you more. Aggressiveness does nothing but push others away. Being passive gives people the impression that they can just walk all over you. Passive aggressiveness does absolutely nothing beneficial except give you the false idea that you have actually done something to help the situation.


When you are assertive in your everyday life, you can rest easy that you stand firm in your beliefs while respecting others. You will know that you did all that you could to improve a difficult situation.

I hope that this information on how to be assertive as an adult helps you take steps to practice these important skills in your life. Based on the above 4 descriptions, how do you deal with difficult situations? What can you work on to become more assertive?

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