Mrs bimbo oloyede lecture

Assertive Communication

We all communicate in different ways based on our backgrounds, education, beliefs, values, religions, cultures, physical abilities, gender and ethnicity.

Depending on our circumstances, we also respond to people in a variety of ways. We can respond in a passive manner, which indicates that we think other people’s rights and opinions are more important than ours. We can respond in an aggressive manner, which indicates that we believe our own opinions must be accepted, no matter the cost. We can respond in a warm and friendly way, which may depend on the degree of intimacy that exits between us and the people with whom we are conversing. Or we can respond in an assertive manner, which indicates that while we express our needs clearly and respectfully, we still consider other people’s needs.

Assertive communication is a style of communication that we will need to adopt from time to time in our personal, social and professional lives. While it may be a normal means of communication for some, for those who naturally shy away from conflict or confrontation, it is a practical and acceptable way to express your point of view in an honest, open and direct way, while still respecting others.

What we want to consider today, is how educators can effectively utilize assertive communication, to add value to their professional existence. So how do you communicate? Please be honest about placing yourself in any of the stereotypes listed below.


TYPE A: Bossy and Overbearing
That is directly aggressive by bullying others. You are intolerant, self-opinionated and arrogant. You do not give others a chance to express themselves.
TYPE B: Manipulative and Sarcastic
That is indirectly aggressive by making insinuations and making ambiguous statements. You may try to manipulate others by making them feel guilty. `
TYPE C: Submissive and Subservient
That is passive and apologetic by being indecisive and appearing helpless. You complain and moan about various situations but you reluctantly comply because it is your duty to be obedient.
TYPE D: Assertive and Positive
That is direct and honest by being firm and self-confident. You are independent enough to speak out when necessary and you are willing to accept your faults when you are wrong.

Do you belong to any of these groups? Maybe you can see a little of yourself in each category. Which communication style is going to be most appropriate within the school environment? Or do we need some elements of each type from time to time?

Imagine a situation where teachers are gathering to have a meeting in the school hall. As they are walking in, one teacher pushes her way forward, upsetting those who are calmly filing in. One aggressive teacher asks “What’s the matter with you Edith, are you more important than the rest of us who are queueing to attend the meeting? Edith may give an equally aggressive response and an argument could ensue. On the other hand, an assertive teacher could say “Edith, we are all attending this meeting, please join the queue too.” Edith’s response to the assertive teacher, is likely to be more positive. She might apologise and remind her colleagues that she was the secretary during the last meeting and she needs to distribute the minutes to each teacher as they take their seats. Her colleagues would probably ask her to go to the front of the line to enable her perform her task.

Within the educational environment, the chain of communication begins with the gateman and ends with the director or proprietor of the school. In between you have a variety of positions including receptionists or front office operatives, teacher’s aids, teachers, heads of units, H.R. and marketing personnel, administrators, heads of school and the directors. You also have the parents, guardians, drivers, cleaners and caregivers, who are likely to interact with one or more of those within the school premises, at one time or another.

How do they all engage in a civil, courteous manner, with each person not only upholding his or her self-respect but also recognizing that others are entitled to respect? I believe this can largely be achieved through the active adoption of assertive communication, providing it is used constructively, at the right time.

As teachers, we know that there are times when we feel vulnerable or unsure of ourselves, especially when some parents lash out at us or our superiors speak to us in a threatening or menacing way. When it happens, we may feel insecure and our self-esteem is likely to be affected. We may be overwhelmed into submission, which undermines our integrity as people and our authority as teachers. We may become offensive and aggressive as an immediate means of defence when we feel we have been unfairly treated. Either way, internal or external conflict escalates, because we are likely to resent being bullied. We are also likely to create long term upsets between those affected as well as within the school environment.

The truth is nobody needs to feel helpless in such situations. Learning how to communicate in an assertive way, is a practical approach to solving these issues.


  1. Standing up for yourself
    When you are assertive, you are able to stand up for yourself, in a polite way. Your dignity is not undermined and you retain your sense of pride. Those who think they can speak to you in a rude or condescending manner, will view you differently and see you as an independent person.
    For instance, when a parent accuses you of not paying enough attention to their child, you could say, “I make sure that John’s homework is always checked by my assistant as well as myself,” rather than “You should be going through your son’s homework every day.”
  2. Maintaining Eye Contact
    When you are assertive, you maintain eye contact with the person or persons with whom you are conversing. In these climes, eye contact is regarded as being either brazen, rude or disrespectful. However, in a professional or work environment, that line of thinking will have to change. Your eyes are said to mirror your soul and since it is difficult to ‘fake’ sincerity, eye contact is the best way to show that you mean what you say.
  3. Walking/Standing Upright
    When you are assertive, your posture and gestures also help to add emphasis to the message you are portraying. When you look at submissive people, you may observe drooping shoulders, bent heads and clenched fists. These are indications of defeat and frustration but assertive behaviour requires a high head, a straight back and free movement of the arms and hands, as a further means of expression and emphasis. Conversely, you will observe that when people speak with aggression, their bodies are fixed and rigid. There is no visible physical tension when you are being assertive, you are relaxed and in control of your body.
  4. Speaking Calmly
    When you are assertive, your voice is calm. You do not shout out of anger, neither do you whisper because you are afraid. You select your words and speak in measured tones, because you are confident about what you are saying. It is not menacing, threatening or intimidating and therefore non-confrontational. Your voice is well modulated and your tone is warm and sincere.
  5. Speaking Confidently Not Arrogantly
    When you are assertive, you think about what you will say, how you will say it and where you will express yourself. When people want to intimidate you, they usually don’t mind where they do so. Often they prefer to disgrace you openly. Being assertive means having the conversation on your terms and if possible in your space. Don’t allow parents to demean your authority as a teacher by speaking to you publicly. Ask them into a classroom, away from prying eyes, and then invite them to speak their minds. This gives you time to gain confidence and control of your environment. If you hold a superior position and wish to reprimand your subordinate, remember too that others look up to this member of staff. Berating him or her in public, will not auger well for future interaction between the teacher and his/her colleagues or between the teacher and parents or between the teacher and students. After all, assertive behaviour recognises your rights, as well as the rights of others.
    For instance, “I would appreciate it if we could discuss this in the Principal’s office, where nobody will disturb us.”
  6. Speaking at the Right Time
    When you are assertive, timing is a very important factor. As much as possible, choose the most appropriate time to express yourself or make your opinion known. There is no point in being so desperate to have your say, that you speak at a time when you will not command full attention or you choose an inappropriate time to make your point. You want to make impact and you want to be well received. This goes for teachers admonishing students; principals admonishing parents and class teachers who may disagree with their class assistants.
  7. Taking responsibility for your statements
    When you are assertive, you don’t judge people by starting sentences with ‘you’. This often offends others who see it as an attack and naturally puts them on the defensive. Starting your sentence with ‘I’, enables you to focus more on your feelings and how the conversation affects you. This in turn, helps you to claim ownership of your statements without others thinking that you are blaming them. Being responsible for what you say, moves your conversation towards a positive conclusion.
    For instance, instead of saying “You are always late,” you could say “I thought we were to meet at 11.00. am. Look at the time, it’s already noon.”

Being assertive is actually a way to balance communication and communicative responses. It ensures that you neither bully your way and force your opinion on others, nor are you browbeaten into submission. When you are assertive, you have confidence and you are sure of yourself. As a direct communicator, you take responsibility for your opinions and actions, rather than judge or blame others. By so doing, you respect yourself and you recognize other people’s rights.

 Be clear when stating your opinion
 Be brief when making a request
 Be honest about your feelings
 Be willing to listen carefully to what others are saying to you
 Be vocally moderate but firm
 Be sure that your body language and gestures align with your tone
 Beware of words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ when rebuking others
 Be aware of making regular use of ‘I’ messages instead of being accusing
 Be aware that some might mistake assertiveness for aggression
 Be ready to make eye contact

Thank you for participating in this class. Assertive Communication is a training module that is part of one of our Communication Skills Courses. I am the lead consultant and director of Strictly Speaking, a training outfit based in Lagos State that offers practical learning based solutions for communication challenges, cutting across all sectors and industries. Please visit our website for more information about our programmes, services, clients, articles and upcoming training. You will also find out about our publications – Pronunciation Made Easy and An Oral Guide for Schools & Colleges. These are text and audio resources that have been developed to help you improve your diction and use of English Language. You can connect with us on social media – Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram (Strictly Speaking/Strictlyspeakn), Email us or call us on 090 5728 9085.

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