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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Express Yourself


To review and reinforce assertive communication skills learned in a previous lesson. For participants to understand and practice the important elements of assertive communication and distinguish between assertive, passive and aggressive communication styles.


30 to 45 minutes


1) Prepare index cards with one statement each from the following list.

I tried that, and I didn't like it. I'm not interested.
Let me repeat myself, no. No. I don't think that's a good idea.
I've changed my mind. I've reconsidered. The answer is no.
I've never done that before. I don't think I could do it.
No. No, thank you.
Go on without me. I decided that I don't want to go.
No. I don't want to go. I love you, but I don't want to.
I don't want to. I'm just not ready for that.
I'm not going to change my mind about this. I don't like the way you are talking to me.
No way. Are you kidding? No thanks.


  1. Define Communication Styles
    On the board, write the words "passive," "aggressive" and "assertive." Explain that these are three communication styles that most of us use at different times. We want to be clear on how to communicate assertively, so it is important to know the difference between these styles. Briefly describe these communication styles using the following definitions:

    Passive Communication: a non-direct or unclear message; not expressing your feelings at all or doing so in a manner that is vague and makes it seem that you could easily be persuaded to change your mind.

    Aggressive Communication: a hostile or forceful message with an intention to hurt or pressure; expressing your feelings in a manner that is confrontational.

    Assertive Communication: a direct and clear message with no intention to hurt; expressing your feelings in a manner that is honest, self-confident and considerate of the other person's feelings.

  2. Explain Today's Focus: The Non-verbal Elements
    Explain that a communication style is made up of what is said and how it is said, i.e., the words that are used and how they are delivered. Emphasize that the focus in this session is on the delivery, that is, the nonverbal part of communication.

  3. Model Nonverbal Elements of Communication Style
    Present three key elements of nonverbal communication: eye contact, tone of voice and body language. Write these on the board.

    Using verbal and nonverbal language, model each of the three communication styles for students to closely observe. Use the statement "I don't want to."

    1. Express the statement in a passive way with no or limited eye contact, a soft, shaky or whiny tone of voice, and with your body moving, fidgeting, or slumping. After modeling it a couple times, have students report back how your eye contact was, your tone of voice and your body language. Jot their observations on the board under the word passive. Add other possible variations that were not modeled too.

    2. Repeat the process for aggressive communication. Express the statement, "I don't want to" aggressively by staring them in the eyes, using a loud or strained tone of voice, and pointing at them or getting very close to them. Solicit and record student observations on the board.
    3. Repeat the process for assertive communication using the same statement while looking students in the eyes, using a strong tone of voice and standing or sitting still and upright. Solicit and record student observations on the board.

  4. Students Practice Communication Styles
    1. Ask for ten volunteers to come to the front of the room and face the rest of the students. Give each volunteer an index card with a statement on it. (If you have 20 students or less, you can have them all participate from their seats.) Explain that each volunteer will express the statement on their card using the communication style of their choice: passive, aggressive, or assertive.
    2. Instruct the rest of the group to closely observe the volunteers as they express their statements.
    3. Have the first volunteer express his/her statement. Ask the rest of the group to vote with a show of hands on which communication styles he/she was using. Ask the volunteer what style of communication he/she was intending to use. Allow a few observing students to explain why they voted as they did. If many of the observers do not agree OR if the observers determined a different communication style than was intended by the volunteer, allow a short discussion to arise focusing on the nonverbal aspects of the messages. Keep this light and fun and encourage the large group to give the feedback to the volunteer as appropriate.
    4. Educator Note: Cultural differences can affect communication styles. Be sensitive to this and weave cultural differences into the discussions as appropriate.
    5. Repeat this process for each of the volunteers.
    6. Wrap up by having each volunteer express their statement again, this time assertively.

  5. Closure
    Conclude the activity by reviewing the components of an assertive message and encouraging participants to practice assertive communication with their friends.