Assertive communication

Assertive communication is seen as an integral skill for nurses and midwives. It empowers us to be heard and to advocate for those in our care. Assertive communication equips us to cope with the increasing demands and stress of our work.

Not sure how to be an assertive communicator and want to practice? You can call our national confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 667 877.
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With assertive communication, the speaker effectively expresses their needs, rights and opinions in a manner that is respectful of others (McKellar & Diaz, 2014).

It is based on mutual respect and targets problems rather than people, with a mutual goal to solve a concern or crisis. This communication style has been found to neutralise incidents of workplace bullying, reduce the stress experience in complex situations and boost self-empowerment.

Tips on being an assertive communicator

Being an assertive communicator does not always come naturally.

To improve your assertive communication skills:

  • know what you want to say – use “I” statements
  • respect the opinions of others (even if you don’t agree)
  • get to the point and keep it simple 
  • choose the right moment to assert yourself
  • be confident, not arrogant
  • be firm but polite
  • don’t be aggressive or raise your voice
  • speak in a neutral tone
  • actively listen to what people have to say
  • ask people to listen – you have something important to say
  • ask questions to understand views that differ to yours
  • know your limits and boundaries – what you will and won’t accept, and
  • look for areas of compromise – win-win is a good outcome.
Say ‘no’ assertively

Saying no isn’t always easy. But saying yes all the time can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, overworked, stressed, and put you at risk of burnout. It is important that you take steps to prevent increasing workloads, which prevent you from finishing your shift on time, having time off work and taking your breaks. Saying no assertively has been linked to resilience and can be said to be a stress management technique (Riley, 2017).

When to say no:

  • if tasks are outside your scope of practice or position description
  • when a request is unreasonable
  • if you feel unsure or not confident
  • if saying yes will negatively affect your shift plan and negatively impact patient care
  • because you don’t want to (overtime, shift swaps), and
  • if the request is not consistent with the values of the organisation.
What can I do next?

Read some of our other articles:

Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

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