Practicing Assertive Communication in Recovery

Being assertive is a core communication skill. Assertiveness can help you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. This is important for everyone, especially people in recovery, as being assertive can also help boost your self-esteem, earn others’ respect, and in turn help with reducing stress.

Traits of Assertive Communicators

The first step toward communicating assertively is to act the part. How we say things is as important as what we say. This means there are certain actions that should accompany our assertive conversations. We should:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Listen listens to others without interruption
  • Speak at an appropriate volume
  • Maintain a steady tone of voice
  • Display confident body language (sit or stand upright, facing the person to whom you are speaking)
  • Clearly state needs and wants (planning what you want to say in advance may be helpful)

Tips on How to be Assertive

  • Respect yourself. Your needs, wants, and rights are as important as anyone else’s. It’s healthy to express what you want, as long as you are respectful toward the rights of others.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings calmly. Giving the silent treatment, yelling, threatening, and shaming are all great examples of what not to do.
  • Take responsibility for your emotions, and express them in a calm and factual manner. Try starting sentences with “I feel…”.
  • Plan what you’re going to say. Know your wants and needs, and how you can express them, before entering a conversation. Come up with specific sentences and words you can use.
  • Say “no” when you need to. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. When you need to say “no”, do so clearly, without lying about the reasons. Offer to help find another solution. “No” is a complete sentence.

Examples of Assertive Communication

Example 1: “I’ve been feeling frustrated about doing most of the chores around the house. I understand that you’re busy, but I need help. How can we make this work?”
Why this is effective: The speaker takes responsibility for their feelings without blaming, and clearly describes their needs.

Example 2: “I won’t be able to take you to the airport on Friday. I’ve had a long week, and I want to rest.”
Why this is effective: The speaker respects their own needs and wants by clearly saying “no”.

Example 3: “I’m having a hard time sleeping when your music is on. What if you use headphones, or I can help you move the speakers to another room.”
Why this is effective: The speaker describes their needs, while also considering the needs and wants of the other person.

Here are 7 Steps to stop being people-pleasers, start setting boundaries and priorities, and learn to say No!

  • Step 1 – Don’t feel bad or guilty about saying No
  • Step 2 – Don’t say No without actually saying No
  • Step 3 – Know why you are Saying No
  • Step 4 – Being really clear when you say No
  • Step 5 – Thanking the person for the opportunity/interest
  • Step 6 – No doesn’t mean forever & No doesn’t mean never
  • Step 7 – You can be assertive AND affectionate/kind/compassionate

Credit to for the source material behind this article.

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.