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Are you a submissive, assertive or aggressive communicator? – QUIZ

Whatever your role in the workplace, a clear and assertive approach will prevent misunderstanding and ensure that your message is heard.

Discover whether you are communicating assertively or if you could do with some extra help getting your message across.


Choose a, b, c or d in the answers below to identify how you tend to behave in the situations listed.

Tip: Your first answers are usually the best and most accurate. Go with your gut instinct and try not to over analyse.

  1. You’re making plans for this year’s Christmas holidays or other big celebration. Your partner wants to bring his/her family. Do you:
    A) Imply that it’s unfair and hope that things will change
    B) Invite the family – anything for peace!
    C) Say how you feel and what you would like
    D) Flatly refuse to invite them
  2. When a co-worker borrows your stapler regularly and forgets to return it to you, do you:
    A) Drop hints at regular intervals
    B) Let it go
    C) Explain the effect it has on your work and ask for it back
    D) Get angry and demand it back
  3. You have just started to drink your coffee in a café. It should be hot but it’s cold. Do you:
    A) Tell the staff member that this isn’t what you ordered and order another one
    B) Carry on and drink it
    C) Tell the staff member it’s cold and ask for a hot one
    D) Point out this isn’t good enough and demand better
  4. An interview panel member asks a question that seems sexist to you, do you:
    A) Quip back a quick retort
    B) Answer as best you can
    C) Express some concern about the question only if you feel OK to do so
    D) Point out how wrong it is to ask such questions and refuse to answer it
  5. You’re about to join a queue at the supermarket when another shopper nips in and jumps ahead of you. Do you:
    A) Try to block the person out of the line
    B) Ignore it and queue behind them
    C) Tell the other shopper how annoyed you are and ask him/her to move
    D) Give the person a scolding for his/her rudeness
  6. When someone criticises your brand new coat do you:
    A) Say something like “Well it’s the most expensive coat I’ve ever bought!”
    B) Blush and say nothing
    C) Check what is specifically being said and check for yourself
    D) Tell him/her it’s none of their business
  7. You are involved in after-hours conference calls with the US for the third time this week. You have already made alternative arrangements. Do you:
    A) Give what you think is a cast iron reason for not taking part
    B) Try saying no but end up taking part
    C) Say ‘no’ firmly and say when you will have to leave for your other appointment
    D) Complain that it’s the third time this week and say a definite “NO”
  8. Your family doesn’t seem to be listening when you tell them your plans for the weekend. Do you:
    A) Say something like “Well if anyone’s interested I’m…….”
    B) Keep quiet
    C) Say how you feel and how it’s important to you to tell them about your plans
    D) Talk more loudly
  9. When you keep quiet in a situation, it is because:
    A) You know the silence will have an effect
    B) You are too upset or frightened to speak
    C) You have nothing to say
    D) You’re sulking

 How did you do?

Add up the number of letters you have chosen in questions 1-9.

Mostly b)

Your behaviour tends to be submissive. Submissiveness can be a really useful coping strategy in certain situations and can be very powerful depending on the circumstances and who else you are working with. For example, you could choose to accede to the extraordinary request of a valued client in order to retain their business and loyalty. Like any behaviour, if it becomes habitual, you can be seen as a pushover and it can leave you feeling unempowered and lacking confidence. Fortunately, there is training available to overcome barriers to assertive communication.

Mostly c)

This shows that you tend to be assertive but check that you actually do the things you say you do. For example, do you sometimes hold back on saying what you really think. Sometimes it is easy to see what the best solution is on paper, but a more passive response may slip out in the heat of the moment. There are ways to isolate where you might benefit from more assertiveness training to fine tune your responses to different situations. 

Mostly a) or d)

Your behaviour tends to be aggressive. d) is directly aggressive, whilst a) is indirectly aggressive and manipulative. People often confuse assertive behaviour with aggressive behaviour so it’s not unusual to have a high score here. When being assertive, it’s a common concern to feel that your behaviour is perceived by others as aggressive. There is a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Assertiveness is about stating how you feel while being respectful of others while aggressiveness is when there is a general perception that a winner and loser is dependent on the behaviour being shown.

You might think it strange that there would ever be a justification for aggressive behaviour, however, raising your voice a little or demanding to speak to a manager could land your ongoing complaint at the top of a service provider’s pile. Just be aware that regular use of such tactics may lead to others seeing you as forceful and bullying in your style.

Want to learn how to use assertiveness effectively in the workplace today?

Being assertive requires a high level of consideration for the needs of all involved in the matter concerned, as well as a high level of personal courage to stand firm in the face of opposition, whether this is real or perceived.

Whether you’re too submissive, aggressive or want to learn even more about being assertive, there are quick tips and tools the moment you take one of our bite-sized courses.

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