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Communication skills

Read our tips to help you communicate in an assertive and effective manner.

Two men talking in Concordia's EV Atrium

There are three general communication styles [PDF]: aggressive, passive and assertive. The most effective is the assertive style, in which you honestly communicate your thoughts and needs in a respectful manner. Some assertive communication strategies include:

Use "I" statements

Through "I" statements you speak about things from your perspective. For example:

  • "I feel anxious that we are going to be late for dinner with friends."
  • "What I want is for us to work together to get the house cleaned up."

"I" statements are helpful to let a person know how their behaviour makes you feel as well as to ask them to change their behaviour. A useful format is: 

  • "When (you) ... I feel ... What I need is ..."

For example, "When you interrupt me, I feel like my contribution doesn't matter. What I need is for you to listen to me until I finish speaking."

Be clear and direct

Adhere to the KISS principle: Keep It Short and Simple.

  • Don't use 50 words when 10 will do.
  • Speak only about what is important.
  • Stay on topic.
  • Don't give conflicting messages.

Use assertive non-verbal communication

Communication includes what you say (verbal) and how you say it (non-verbal). To effectively communicate non-verbally:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Smile, where appropriate
  • Keep a relaxed, comfortable posture
  • Speak in a clear, steady voice
  • Use appropriate gestures


Learning to communicate assertively does not come naturally: it requires effort and practice. Think through what you will say and even practice it out loud before engaging in a conversation.

For detailed information, consult the Assert Yourself workbook from the Center for Clinical Interventions.

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