Three-part assertion messages

It is important to have a good technique to respond to a workplace bully’s demands or accusations. An assertion technique that you can use is a 3-part assertion message where you state the behaviours of the bully, how it makes you feel and lastly the effects on you. For example, “When you yell at me I feel disrespected and embarrassed which really affects my concentration and focus for the rest of the day – I would appreciate if you use a quieter voice when you talk to me from now on”.  This type of assertive message often has a significant effect when practiced and used consistently.

Behavior    e.g When you dismiss my feedback…
Feelings       e.g I feel like you do not value me as an employee, and as a result…
Effects        e.g because I don’t feel a need to contribute to the overall goal of our team


  • The behavior to be altered must be described very accurately and objectively.
  • Otherwise, the other person may not clearly understand what behavior you find offensive.
  • Communicate what the other does that violates your space or self-esteem.
  • Describe the behavior in specific rather than fuzzy terms.
  • Do not draw inferences about the other person’s motives, attitudes, character, and so on.
  • Make your behavior description an objective statement rather than a judgment.
  • Avoid absolutes like “never,” “always,” and “constantly.”
  • Avoid profanity.

Disclosure of Feeling:

  • Communicate how you feel about the effect the other has on you.
  • Genuine disclosure of emotion underscores the importance the assertion has for you.
  • Choose words that are not laden with judgment.


  • A well-delivered assertion message that cites a concrete and tangible effect usually persuades the other person to change his/her behavior to meet your needs.



1. When you stare at me across the room I feel uneasy because it makes me think I am doing something wrong.

2. When you say derogatory things about my race I feel angry because the judgements are unfair and untrue.

3. When you shout at me across the office to do something I feel embarassed because it seems as though you don’t respect me enough to come and ask directly.

4. When you ask me to take out the rubbish bag so often I feel annoyed because I seem to be doing this 4 days out of every 5.




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