How to Build Your Confidence in Speaking Assertively

Thursday, 12th February, 2015

In 5 TipAssertiveness (1)s for Managing a Challenging Situation Assertively, I outlined 5 key things I use to help me manage challenging situations … usually those I’m not expecting, but you can apply them to situations you’ve got coming up that you think are going to be challenging too!

I also included a table with descriptors for passive, assertive and aggressive behaviours, attitudes and body language.

In this post I’d like to offer a range of assertive phrases that you can use as well.

There are 3 key rules I try to follow when speaking assertively:

1. Use more “I …” and “we …” language than “you …” and “you’re …” phrases.

2. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, and use their words/phrases where relevant.

3. Aim to be solution-focused and look for ways to move the situation forward, rather than going round in circles.

Here are some examples of questions/phrases you can use for a couple of common scenarios.

bigstock-Discussion-44167852Following someone’s unhappiness, when you’ve asked for something, or made a decision they’re not happy about (e.g. feedback about their practice) …

  • “I accept this is difficult at the moment. I only ask that you do your best / do what you can.”
  • “I sense that you’re not happy about this. Can you explain which part(s) in particular you want me to focus on?”
  • “I understand your concerns here (list them, using their language) … and I will give them due consideration before making my decision.”
  • “I accept this is difficult at the moment. My role here is to help you succeed (make reference to the context here), and I’ll support you in any way I can. Let’s look at some options for doing this.”
  • “Thanks for pointing this out to me. Let’s explore the different ways we can address this.”
  • “Which resources / strengths, that you already have, do you feel you can use to move forward in this area?” (Despite the multiple use of ‘you’ here, it’s a positively focused question.)
  • “Thanks for your honesty. I know this process can be … (use the words they’ve used to describe the situation) and I appreciate you sharing this with me. What do you see as the possible options for changing this / moving it forward?”
  • “I hear what you’re saying. Given that this has been identified as an area for development, let ‘s consider ways you can provide evidence to show success with this area in the future.”

bigstock-Juggling-Time-1666973Following someone’s request on your time …

  • “That’s not a good time for me. How about half an hour from now / at lunchtime / at the end of the day?”
  • “I can’t do that for you right now. I’m just in the middle of something.”
  • “I’d like to help. I’m just finishing this task, then instead of the 5 minutes you’re asking for now, I can give you 10 minutes later!”
  • “Can I let you know tomorrow about that?”
  • “I haven’t got my diary with me. I’ll get back to you at (give a time when you know you can get back to them).”
  • “I can’t do that right now, but I can do ____ or ____. Which of those times suit you best?”

These are just a few examples. It’s important that you come up with some stock phrases that you can use when under pressure. But perhaps more importantly – have 2 or 3 rules you follow to help formulate some assertive phrases that work for you, and give you confidence to speak assertively!

Feel free to add to the questions and statements above, using the comments box below :-)


Tdebbie019 fhank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in them.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.