‘I’ is ‘Assertive’ in Communication

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As Business writing etiquette, we have been  traditionally taught to avoid using the ‘I’ word , To me, it was always challenging to do so.                                                 

After all, ‘I’ start a conversation because ‘I’ want to convey/ ask/ inform and so on, right?

At work, assertive and even hard talk is a requirement. Lets see how we can leverage the power of ‘I’  and get the desired outcome or responses from our Team members, Customers and Vendors. 

A talks and  B listens.


A  says It appears B ‘s  possible reaction
1 I know how you think…
(Mind read)
A is reading B’s mind. A  is presumptuous
A is using his power
A is know it all.
Pushy. Bully.
Only I know what’s in my mind.
How can you judge?
2. I can help you.. A has thought over B’s issue
and has the competency to help

A is helpful by nature
A probably has the solution for me.
He has the competency.
3. I need you to.. A needs help from B on something.
A states his expectations clearly
May go all out if rapport is good
Will execute well as there is clarity (A is boss)
It’s your need, not mine!
(If there’s no ‘ buy in’)
4. I want you.. Assertive. It’s A’s Want
Not clear why B should be part of it.
You are making your ‘wants’/ your personal agenda part of this project.
B may get defensive. Why should we..
Clarity needed
5. I thinkyour thoughts? Logic and reasoning applied
A has thought about it.
A is the master of this thought.
B may submit or add to the shared pool of thought.
Topic near closure, either way
Inclusive and collaborative
6. I feel.. we should A has ‘felt’.
A’s talk is not only from the Brain level.
He has understood B’s emotions.
B feels A has a heart.
He has listened to understand.
A is empathic and so, B feels included.
B is likely to ‘respond’ rather than ‘react’ to A’s proposal.
Rapport built


Transactional analysis (TA) talks of three states of our ego: Child, Adult and Parent. We are all the time alternating in these stages in our relationships and interactions. At work place, it is the ‘Adult’ in us that is required and expected to speak. Conversations need to be empathetic, rational and assertive at the same time. This could be challenging for some of us.

From the ‘Child’ stage or ‘Critical parent’ stage, talk ranges from Passive to Aggressive- often blaming, attacking, manipulative even abusive thereby putting the recipient in the unsafe zone. These are ways to run away from a situation or conflict. This leaves loops open. Importantly, ‘Dialogue’ ceases.

The only way to elicit the desired response in our conversations is the ‘Adult’ way- the ‘Assertive’ way. ‘Adult’ talk is open, inclusive, direct, honest, takes care of boundaries, does not harm anyone and is respectful. So much merit!

Using I words help in crafting assertive statements. The person using them is the Author, the master of those words and is accountable for what he says. This ownership is very powerful.

‘I think, I want, I need’ gives information. ‘I feel’ gives more information, connects with emotions and establishes closeness in the relationship.  It’s an excellent way to build ‘Rapport’ before talking.

Only 7% of the Communication we do is verbal (Albert Mehrabian model). Yet, no ‘Adult’ ever says what he/she doesn’t mean. In this 7%, shouldn’t we weigh every word we speak, so that we elicit the response we are seeking?

To most of us, these lessons have come a little late and have been expensive. It’s not taught to us in colleges and schools. Let’s look back at the events when an operative word we’ve spoken has worked or not worked in our favour.

Go ahead and use the ‘I ’ word, not to sound pompous or self obsessed.

Use it to assert yourself and make meaningful conversations.

Do write in to me with your thoughts and feelings on the ‘I’ phrases you’ve used.

Kanchan Purohit

NLP Enthusiast and Image Consultant.

Professional in areas of Communication – Verbal and Nonverbal.

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