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Dear Dr. Yael,

I wanted to share some points on a course that I took on assertiveness training. I struggle with being assertive and this course really helped me.

  1. An assertive person does not lie.
  2. An assertive person does not retrace history.
  3. An assertive person knows how to accept a compliment.
  4. An assertive person knows how to accept a gift.
  5. An assertive person uses failure as a means of learning. He or she replays a failure to see what would have made it a success.
  6. An assertive person achieves independence through creative risk taking which allows him to give up dependent and manipulative behavior.
  7. The more assertive we are, the less angry we feel.
  8. The more assertive we are, the less judgmental we are.
  9. When we are assertive, we care for others, and we need less from them.
  10. An assertive person ends poor relationships as soon as possible.

These are some points that I learnt in my assertive training program. Please share these points with your readers and respond to these ideas.



Dear M.M.,

I appreciate your sharing some important points that helped you in your life. I would like to share that I spend a lot of time helping people in therapy become assertive as opposed to aggressive. An assertive person is generally more confident and constructive, while an aggressive person may express his/her anger in a destructive manner.

Most of us feel safer with assertive people. We are not afraid to express our fears or emotions to someone who is confident enough not to lash out at us. In life, assertive people accomplish more and are able to establish healthy relationships while aggressive people tend to destroy relationships with those closest to them.

Passive aggression is a way that people express negative feelings, such as annoyance or anger indirectly instead of directly. Passive aggressive people refuse to discuss concerns openly and directly, avoid responsibility, and can be deliberately inefficient. They leave jobs undone or almost complete, run late, and are an expert at subtly sabotaging others when they disagree with a course of action. They often resort to backhanded compliments or silent treatment to get their point across.

Passive aggressive people would benefit from becoming more assertive, expressing their feelings and emotions directly and openly rather than through subterfuge. For example, an assertive person will say, “I love the way you put yourself together, you really look amazing!” A passive aggressive person may say, “You look like a million dollars, all green and wrinkled.” We all struggle at times with being aggressive and passive aggressive. However, if we know that ultimately we will achieve more in life in all our relationships by being positive and directly assertive, we will aim to become more open and assertive, and we won’t rely on barbed comments. We need to learn how to express our needs in a more confident way, which will reduce our reliance on hidden and passive aggressive modes of expression. The only way to do this is to work on our self esteem and confidence and learn how to be assertive instead of aggressive or passive aggressive.

For example, an assertive person is faced with a situation where a friend is constantly late. He can say, “I realize you have the right to spend your time as you see fit, but I really need you to be more punctual. Perhaps in the future, you can give me a call when you’re running late” (which is a constructive suggestion). Aggressive people and passive aggressive people, on the other hand, tend to make others feel defensive and unhappy. We all should aim to work on becoming assertive people. As I write this column I know that I am giving you ideas on how to be assertive and reasons why aggressive and passive aggressive communication is not productive. It is challenging to change these ways of communicating. I hope people struggling with these issues will seek the professional help they need to change negative communication to positive and assertive communication. Thank you for writing about this important topic!

Hatzlacha in your journey in life!


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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at