Assertiveness means expressing your point of view in a way that is clear and direct, while still respecting others.

Communicating in an assertive manner can help you to minimise conflict, to control anger, to have your needs better met, and to have more positive relationships with friends, family and others.

Assertiveness is a style of communication which many people struggle to put into practice, often because of confusion around exactly what it means. 

People often confuse assertiveness with aggression, because it involves sticking up for yourself. But the two are actually quite different. Look at the following examples:

Aggressive communication                                              Assertive communication


Forces your needs or opinions onto others                       Expresses your needs clearly but respectfully.


Often involves bullying or pushing others around            Others are treated with respect.


Ignores the needs of others.                                              Considers the needs of others as well as yours.


Hinders compromise.                                                         Promotes compromise.


Damages relationships.                                                      Strengthens relationships.


May lead to shouting or physical aggression                    Uses clear language to get your point across.


Damages self-esteem                                                         Builds self-esteem


For example, imagine you are standing in line at the bank and someone else pushes in front of you.

An aggressive response could be to grab them by the shoulder and say loudly: Hey! What makes you so important that you don’t have to wait in line like the rest of us?

This might make you feel better in the short term, but you will probably also spend the rest of the hour feeling annoyed about the interaction. Or perhaps the other person will shout back at you and the situation will get even worse, really leaving you in a bad mood.

A more assertive response could be to gently tap the person on the shoulder and say in a clear but respectful voice: Excuse me, there is actually a line here. It would be better if you could wait your turn like the rest of us.

Chances are you will get a more positive response to this - perhaps the other person will apologise and move to the back of the line, or they may explain their reason for wanting to push in and you may feel happy to do them this favour. They may still respond badly - your assertiveness does not guarantee others will not be aggressive

 Here are some tips for practising being assertive:

• State your point of view or request clearly

• Tell the other person how you feel as honestly as you can, and remember to listen to what they say as well

• Tone and volume of voice: how you say it is as important as what you say. Speak at a normal conversation volume, rather than a shout or whisper, and make sure that you sound firm but not aggressive

• Make sure your body language matches - your listener will get mixed messages if you are speaking firmly while looking at the floor. Try to look the other person in the eye, stand tall, and relax your face

• Try to avoid exaggerating with words like always and never. For example: You are 20 minutes late and it is the third time this week, rather than: You are always late!

• Try to speak with facts rather than judgement. For example: This report has important information missing, rather than you have done a bad job again

• Use “I Statements” as much as possible, to tell the other person how you feel rather than be accusing. For example: When you leave your dishes on the table, I feel frustrated because I don’t like the mess but don’t want to clean it up for you, rather than: You’re such a pig!

• Practise often - assertiveness is a skill which requires you to practise in many different situations


Social Anxiety

Sometimes known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a surprisingly common form of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience intense anxiety in some or all of their social interactions in everyday life.  Given this, social anxiety can be defined as the persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which one is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others, and where exposure to such situations provokes intense anxiety.

It should be noted that some level of anxiety in social situations at times is very normal.

The Individual

Individuals who suffer from social anxiety typically have a stronger than usual desire to make a good social impression. We all like to think we are making a favourable social impression! Unfortunately, they also fear that they are not as good socially as other people and will fail to come up to an acceptable standard of social behaviour – that they will not make the favourable impression they so crave.

In this sense, social anxiety can be understood as an intense fear of embarrassment. Individuals with social anxiety experience a wide range of unpleasant symptoms of anxiety from muscle tension, increased heart rate and dizziness to nausea, dry mouth, and breathlessness. However, of particular concern to them in social situations are the clearly visible signs of anxiety such as blushing, perspiring, shaking and stammering. 

The Social Situation

Individuals with social anxiety tend to either avoid or endure with severe anxiety or distress these much-feared situations. Because the anxiety is so intense and distressing, it’s much easier just to stay away from social situations and avoid other people altogether. Individuals can isolate themselves to such an extent that they give up work and remain at home.

In some circumstances their social contact can narrow down to their immediate family or in extreme circumstances to no one at all. This then can lead to feelings of sadness and even depression. Others can turn to alcohol in an attempt to ease their social discomfort and this can lead to serious problems with alcohol misuse and dependency.

Unfortunately, the avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress experienced in social situations interferes greatly with the individual’s normal routine at work, in school, during social activities, and/or in relationships.

Most individuals with social anxiety have jobs that are well beneath their capabilities and capacities because of their social concerns: the nightmare of job interviews, the agony of working in a job where there is a lot of public contact or the dread of being promoted to a position of authority over other or that involves team meetings or formal presentations.

It is important to note that individuals who suffer from social anxiety do recognise that their fear is unreasonable and/or excessive, but try as they do they cannot simply stop themselves having these irrational or excessive concerns. Finally, without proper treatment social anxiety tends to develop into a longstanding and unremitting condition.


Behavioral & Emotional Symptoms:

  • Anxiety reaches such a point that daily tasks, school, work and activities become affected
  • Avoiding situations where the sufferer feels he/she may be the center of attention
  • Kids with possible SA tend to be worried about being embarrassed in front of peers
  • Considerable fear of being in situations with strangers (people the sufferer does not know)
  • Dread over how they will be presented to others
  • Excessive fear of being teased or criticized
  • Excessive fear that other people may notice that the sufferer looks anxious
  • Excessive worry about being anxious, which makes the anxiety worse
  • Excessive worry about embarrassment and humiliation
  • Fear of meeting people in authority
  • Having severe anxiety or panic attacks when in the feared situation
  • Refraining from doing certain things or talking to people because of a fear of embarrassment
  • The individual worries excessively about being in situations where he/she may be judged
  • When in a situation that causes anxiety the sufferer’s mind may go blank

Physical Signs and Symptoms:

  • A feeling that the heart is either pounding too hard or fluttering (palpitations)
  • Abdominal pain and/or stomach upset
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Blushing
  • Children with SA may weep, have tantrums, cling to parents, or shut themselves out
  • Clammy hands
  • Cold hands
  • Confusion
  • Crying
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty talking; this may include a shaky voice
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Trembling


Mindfulness & Relaxation Training: Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy 

Mindfulness and relaxation training can be very helpful in minimising the disabling effect of bodily symptoms during periods of anxiety. A number of useful strategies will be taught in order to approach problematic thoughts associated with your condition. Another area of intervention is helping you to become more aware of the vicious circle of avoidance. You will be trained in a variety of strategies to equip you to face anxiety provoking situations in small, manageable steps. Throughout all these endeavours you will be supported and psychotherapy will be conducted at a pace comfortable for you