Communicating effectively depends a great deal on how we express ourselves. Our expression can be either aggressive, passive / avoidant, or assertive.

Aggressive: When engaging in an aggressive expression, your goal is domination and control of a conflict. You usually get what you want, but you might end up hurting others and damaging relationships.


  • You are often in conflict with others.
  • You have trouble letting go of a disagreement, even when the other person wants to drop it.
  • You use threats, verbal attacks, and get loud when angry.
  • You have difficulty accepting “no” in response to a request.

Passive / Avoidant: When engaging in a passive / avoidant expression, your goal is to avoid and indirectly resist conflict. You rarely experience direct rejection from others, and people might view you as easy-going. However, others might take advantage of you, and avoidance might cause more interpersonal conflict than if you had used a more direct approach.


  • You often go along with others, even if you disagree with them.
  • You feel guilty when you ask things of others.
  • You worry about how others will respond if you make a request or say no to them.
  • You often bottle up your thoughts and feelings.
  • You are criticized for being indecisive.

Assertive: When engaging in an assertive expression, your goal is to resolve conflict and come to an increased understanding with the other person(s). You usually get your needs met without hurting others. It can be difficult to do and takes more effort.


  • You are able to express your feelings and opinions without becoming overly emotional
  • You are willing to negotiate to get your needs met.
  • You are aware of your values and goals and voice them when needed.

The goal is to engage in assertive communication. Communication is a two-way street and involves delivering your message as well as listening and responding to another person. Assertiveness can be applied both ways.

Refer to the Assertive Communication exercise for guidance on how to ask for what you need and say no assertively.

Printable version