Barriers to assertive communication

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Interpersonal communication is an important aspect of our daily lives. It helps us get our needs met, and helps us to feel understood by others. There is assertive communication which is healthy and desired, but there is also aggressive and passive aggressive communication which is unhealthy and detrimental to relationships. What are some of the barriers to effective two-way communication? Some barriers to assertive communication are readily fixable, if you know what they are.


Placating is a barrier to effective communication because the act of giving in, when you do not agree with the other person, is the antithesis of communicating with assertiveness. Placating tends to appease rather than serve to provide open and honest communication between two people. Placating language might include telling the other person that they are right, and apologising for disagreeing, even if you do disagree. Avoiding conflict at the expense of assertive communication is placating.


Assumption is devastating to assertive communication in many ways. One of the great barriers to communication is assuming that the other person knows what you are talking about, and that they are on the same level of understanding as you are. A prime example of assumption would be the use of acronyms that are industry specific, as if they were normal language that everyone understood. Others will not know what you are talking about, and in an effort to prevent embarrassment, often will not clarify with you. You can assume that someone knows how to do something and forgo necessary training for them to be successful. You might even assume that someone feels that same way that you do about something, which can lead to major misunderstandings.

Excessive Questioning

Assertive communication must contain a certain amount of back and forth conversation. Too much questioning on your end begins to feel like a critical attack, and you might start seeing defence mechanisms and walls constructed. Excessive questioning is sure to prevent healthy communication, if it is started too quickly.

Emotional Interference

When a person is in emotional meltdown mode, assertive communication often ends up being aggressive communication. A passionate debate is one thing, while an aggressive, verbal attack that leads to power struggles is quite another. Pent up emotions can lead to passive-aggressive communication, which is nothing more than aggressive communication on the down low.

Information Overload

When too much information is given at once, the receiver can sometimes become confused with information overload and retain very little of what you told them. It is always wise to check with the receiver to ensure they understood what you said before moving to the next topic. If they cannot recount or repeat most of what you said, then you gave them too much information to digest at once; slow down.

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