Don’t Forget, It’s Not Just What You Say…

“It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It.”

We know how important it is to mold a child’s positive behavior, learn ways to shape positive behavior with your youth.

Being assertive make it sound as if assertiveness is all about what you say, however, over the years experts have learned that it’s really not so much what you say as how you say it.

The non-verbal components of an assertive message are really the key to its effectiveness.


Eye Contact

If you look directly at the person you’re talking with, it helps to communicate your sincerity and to increase the directness of your message. If you look down or away much of the time, you present a lack of confidence, or a quality of deference to the other person. If you stare too intently, the other person may feel an uncomfortable invasion. Don’t try to maximize eye contact, but keep in mind that a relaxed and steady gaze at the other person, looking away occasionally as is comfortable, helps make conversation more personal, shows interest and respect, and enhances the impact of your message.


Body Posture

Solid research has shown that how you stand or sit is a huge part of how you come across—and even how you feel. Watch other people talking with each other; notice how each is standing or sitting. An active and erect posture, while facing the other person directly, lends additional assertiveness to your message. A slumped, passive stance can give the other person an immediate advantage.




Gestures go with posture to lend strength to your self-expression.Accentuating your message with appropriate gestures can add emphasis, openness, and warmth. While gesturing is a culturally‑related behavior, a relaxed use of gestures can add depth or power to your messages.


Facial Expression

Let your face say the same thing your words are saying!  Your expression should agree with your message. Ever see someone try to express anger while smiling or laughing? It just doesn’t come across. An angry message is clearest when delivered with a straight, non‑smiling countenance. A friendly communication should come with a smile.

Get to know how your facial muscles feel in various expressions—relaxed, smiling, angry, questioning. Try making faces at yourself in the mirror and note how you look—and how you feel—when you express those emotions. As you gain control of your facial expression, you can make it match what you are thinking, feeling, or saying.



Voice Tone, Inflection, Volume

Again, it’s all about how you say it. The same words spoken through clenched teeth in anger offer an entirely different message than when they are shouted with joy or whispered in fear. A level, well modulated, conversational statement is convincing without being intimidating.

A whispered monotone will seldom convince another person that you mean business, while a shouted epithet will likely bring on defensiveness. Listen to your tone (is it raspy, whiny, seductively soft, angry?), your inflection (do you emphasize certain syllables, as in a question, or speak in a monotone, or with “sing‑song” effect?), and your volume (do you try to gain attention with a whisper, or overpower others with loudness?). Learn to control and use your voice effectively; it’s a powerful tool in self‑expression.




Assertiveness includes respect for the rights and feelings of others. That means assertive receiving—sensitivity to others—as well as assertive sending. Effective listening may involve giving feedback to the other person, so it’s clear that you understood what was said.

Assertive listening requires tuning in to the other person (stop other activities, turn off the TV, put down the phone, focus your energy in his or her direction);  paying attention to the message (make eye contact, nod to show that you hear); and actively attempting to understand before responding (attend to the feelings behind the words—rather than trying to interpret or come up with an answer).

Good listening will make all of your assertions more effective, and will contribute hugely to the quality of your relationships.



There is no magic bullet that will make all relationships perfect, and “assertiveness” is not defined simply by a few memorized phrases or by standing up straight. However, you can make a difference in the way others treat you by expressing yourself effectively. Working on the nonverbal components of your communication is one effective way to do that.


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