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Tips to be Assertive (Not Aggressive)

March 16, 2017

Living with a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury often leads to a need to for self-advocacy. One of the steps to becoming a successful self-advocate is to assertively communicate and negotiate.

Communication is a major and important task of being a self-advocate. This includes:

  • Letting people know what you need
  • Listening
  • Respecting boundaries
  • Giving feedback and information
  • Negotiating and problem solving
  • Being assertive, not aggressive or passive.

Lenore Hawley, LSCW, a Craig Hospital brain injury outpatient education and resource coordinator has researched some of the best ways for people with spinal cord and brain injury to be assertive.

Here are some tips she suggests:

Show Respect
Let the other person talk, try not to interrupt
Accept the rights and “human-ness” of the other person

Build Relationships
Knowing people does help. Connect and send a thank you.

Clarify and review
What’s the plan? Who is responsible? Email or write follow-up

Start with “I”, not “you”
Example: “I would like” or “I feel…” rather than “You’re doing that all wrong”

It’s okay to express emotions - be straight
For example “I”m feeling frustrated.” I’m not happy with..” rather than “You people don’t know what you’re doing.”

Say what you want, not what you don’t
“I would prefer to have chicken for dinner” rather than “ you know I don’t like fish”

Stick to the point, repeat yourself if needed.


Want more information?

Learn more about the 4 Steps to Becoming a Successful Self Advocate


Some of the information information above was initially developed from the Rocky Mountain Regional Brain Injury Center, the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund. These grants were administered by the Brian Injury Association of Colorado for the Self Advocacy for Independent Life program, directed by Lenore Hawley, LSCW.