Assertiveness is the natural inclination to be either more or less forceful, aggressive or assertive in relationships. At one end of the assertiveness continuum an individual’s behavior is described as dominant or telling; at the other end of the continuum behavior is described as yielding or asking.

Assertiveness is the forcefulness and intensity with which people are actively attempting to influence the thoughts and actions of others.

Assertiveness can be defined by observing a combination of:

    • Forcefulness and intensity of words (stronger wording versus more careful wording);
    • Forcefulness and intensity of tone of voice (a stronger voice versus a softer voice);
    • Forcefulness and intensity of body language (stronger gestures and mimics versus softer gestures and mimics).

The position of people on the assertiveness scale is fairly consistent under normal circumstances but is further enhanced in situations of interpersonal irritation or stress. When under pressure, people that naturally show more assertive behaviors will become more forceful by raising their voice, leaning forward, taking more space, making stronger gestures, and exhibiting stronger and more direct eye contact. They will more frequently interrupt others and use stronger words to make their point; words that tend to be more stating than asking. When under pressure, their opinions may sound like facts. When interrupted they will raise their voice to regain the upper hand.

People that naturally exhibit more yielding behaviors will under pressure become quieter. They speak with a softer voice, make softer gestures, lean back, and avoid direct eye contact. They will become more cautious in their choice of words. They will be reluctant to give their opinions, and their responses may sound non-committal. They tend to ask questions rather than make statements, and they will pause talking when interrupted.

Still, there seem to be other differences between people, which cannot be explained by merely observing their assertiveness. People also differ in their responsiveness →

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