Assertive Living and Assertive Communication…What’s The Difference?

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Some people say assertiveness is an extroverted trait. Some say it’s no different than aggressiveness. Some don’t understand how untrue both of those statements are.


twotrainsOne core desire the women I serve at TFI have is to be more expressive yes, but they understand it has to come through assertiveness.

Assertiveness then, becomes the vehicle they travel in to get to the desired destination – free, uninhibited self-expression. Raw truth and protrusion of their voice, their insight, their ideas, and their heart.

My guess is if the above resonates with you, you’re also extremely smart, intuitive, and you just want/need a little more direction on how to get on that train.

If assertiveness is the way to get to that enhanced expressive state – that utopia of complete distinctiveness and unique expression you feel and believe exists for you – how do you get a ticket to make sure you get there?

The answer is extremely simple – through understanding and changing your mind.

I’m here to help you with both.

I realized this past week that I’ve had a deep understanding of this for some time, but I’m just now more understanding it in a way I can articulate it for you. This clarity came to me as I reviewed a course outline I’ve had mapped out for probably about 2 years now (and haven’t written) and the assertiveness training I started giving on the blog recently for free.

I realized very clearly that there was a developing paradigm with these two realms, and that they were distinctively different, yet fit together VERY nicely. When I realized it, I knew it was THE way I wanted to teach this concept from now on, and you’ve likely never seen assertiveness shaped quite this way.

It’s a unique perspective I developed out of a need to have the things I teach to be extremely practical (and useful).

I hope you’ll learn what I’m teaching today because it’s going to serve as the core paradigm we’ll use here point forward when we talk about assertiveness.

You’ll start to see in your own life how this dichotomy is formed on a daily basis in all of our lives, and how it gives way to get to that freedom to share the depths and complexities you rarely share, much less know how to, but want to nevertheless.

Assertive Living

Assertive living is just that – it’s living assertively. I want you to view this type of lifestyle not through the eyes of the “extrovert”, but through the eyes of a person who’s confident and self-accepting.  (In other words, I don’t believe assertiveness is an extroverted thing, and I want you to scratch that from your thought processes – that is no longer true, and we’re not going to cling to it here as a belief).

The reason we can’t ascribe to that mindset is because it’s what keeps us small and unseen as introverts. As long as you believe only extroverted people can get what they want from life or enjoy it in fullness, you’ll continue to manifest that thought process in how you are living – this is where passivity and aggression can come from for introverts – always pushing against this thought that their disposition puts them at a disadvantage.

Another reason we can’t subscribe to this notion is because it’s also the one that convinces us we’re trying to “change” our true nature, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

What about leading a more purposeful life (which is essentially all assertiveness is) mirrors the attempt to change the introvert’s nature?

The answer is that it doesn’t. (And I’m off my soap box now).

Assertive Living really looks at things like:

  • Consciousness (an expansive noticing in life, rather than just moving through your day reacting to every little thing)
  • Spiritually aware decisions
  • Deep and purposeful choices
  • Diligence, directness, and the acceptance of divine guidance
  • Ability to act when necessary and react ONLY when necessary
  • True, active listening with people when they’re talking to you
  • Serendipity and slowing down – what’s is happening right now in this moment and why does it matter? Asking that way more often.
  • Keeping your word, following through, and being proactive

So assertive living is the purposely-paying-attention-daily thing.

It is focused on directly and succinctly leading and guiding your own life – and giving yourself permission to do so through daily practices, growth, and attention to what most people miss and don’t pay attention to (something you are already really skilled at as an introvert).

Assertive Communication

Where assertive living is the purposely-paying-attention-daily thing, assertive communication is the communicating-on-purpose thing.

They are not quite the same.

Communication is solely focused on the act of communicating – the actual style of assertiveness and outward manifestations – how does it look, feel, exist, and empower?

Assertive communication deals with things like:

  • Reviewing your fears & how they’re showing up in your language
  • Learning to understand the reason for conversations
  • Catching yourself when you’re rambling (clarity & precision in speaking)
  • Understanding the power of silence (and the psychology of it)
  • Providing and receiving feedback
  • Posture, tone, and eyes
  • The importance of self-statements and negative self-talk
  • Handling criticism and conflict
  • Impressions, both visible and invisible
  • The nature of meetings, negotiations, presentations & manipulations
  • Body language, stances, and verbal cues

In a nut shell?

Assertive communication and assertive living really work together – one from the inside (the living) shapes and forms the outside (the communication).

Like faith and patience. Love and thanksgiving. Peanut butter and jelly. Black and white. Introverts and books.

Like that.

They compliment each other and you can’t really have one without the other.

I’d like you to take this week and notice – what situations require assertive living (or could use more of it), and which ones really just need a good dose of assertive communication, based on what you’ve learned today?

As always, I’ll be in the comment section if you have questions or want to chat about this in more depth or want me to explain something. I appreciate you reading…



Are you possibly interested in learning more about the 4 communication styles and assertiveness? If so, go here to sign up for when the next class is offered!


(Image Credit)


  • September 23, 2014, 5:35 pm  Reply

    “I want you to view this type of lifestyle not through the eyes of the “extrovert”, but through the eyes of a person who’s confident and self-accepting.”


    This is a beautiful example of the difference between introversion and shyness to me: a recognition that we introverts can be extremely confident, and have that confidence then provide a strong foundation for assertive communication practices.

    I generally talk about differentiating “introversion” and “shyness” with the example that, as a totally not-shy introvert, I’m happy to stand up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and speak, but then I can end up drained having to talk to individual members of the audience afterwards.

    You’ve reminded me that a distinction that’s every bit as valid is that as an introvert, I recognise my need for crazy amounts of alone time to feel grounded, sane and energised. And as a confident introvert, I’m comfortable expressing my need, and taking steps to ensure I get it.

    Awesome article, Tamish: I’m off to share it with my tribe!



    • September 23, 2014, 5:37 pm

      (and ugghhh… sorry – that posted before I could fix the typo in your name *embarrassed look*)

    • September 23, 2014, 5:59 pm

      Thanks, Tanja! Much appreciated – so glad it resonated with you. One of the reasons introverts are so comfortable on stage and feel drained otherwise is that, when on stage, we’re not feeling overwhelmed or obligated to struggle for the attention of another or have a million things going on around us while trying to have a conversation. We’re essentially controlling the energy at that moment and it’s convergent. I appreciate you bringing that up here in this discussion!

      • September 23, 2014, 6:03 pm

        *nods* – I think that being able to control the interaction is a huge part of why I’m so comfortable on stage… it’s SO much easier for me to communicate when I have a structure for what I want to say, and I get to prepare for it so I’m not required to think on the fly either.

        I never thought about the aspect of not feeling overwhelmed or struggling for other people’s attention, but those are really good points too!

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