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Case Management Focus: Understanding Assertive vs. Aggressive Communication to Achieve Positive Outcomes

08 Aug, 2023 Anne Llewellyn

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Sarasota, FL ( -- Worker compensation case managers need to be assertive in their roles to break through the barriers they face in their work. Clear and firm communication can go a long way when it comes to advocating for yourself and others. Practicing assertive communication is a way to ensure you're engaging productively while also achieving the outcomes you seek to achieve.

Being assertive involves walking a fine line between being aggressive and being assertive. In this article, I
define each so you can see the difference. I then provide tips that you can think about incorporating into
your practice.

Assertive communication means you're able to express yourself in an open, honest way. Being assertive
means being authentic in communicating your values, thoughts, opinions, attitudes, and feelings. It
means standing up for yourself while also being able to respect others who may disagree.

Aggressive communication is like assertive communication but often excludes empathy and respect.
Aggressive communicators place themselves at the center of every issue, concerned primarily with their needs at the expense of others. Without perspective, aggressive communicators only think about their needs, and they often communicate with frustration and anger creating defensive behavior.

Now that you know the difference between aggressive and assertive communication, review these tips to help you communicate more effectively.

Body language: Be aware of your body language. Are you making fists? Slouching? Shifting from
foot to foot? Avoiding eye contact? Experts say how you hold your body makes a difference in
how people perceive you. Stand firm, plant your feet, and uncross your arms. When sitting in a
doctor’s office, sit upright. Make eye contact with who you are talking to.

Speak calmly and in an even tone, regardless of the situation. Practicing thes tips builds a sense
of calm and trust and helps people feel comfortable, not attacked.

Be clear and direct: When you’re asking questions, be prepared so you get to the point of what
you want to learn. Doing so ensures you communicate clearly and saves time.

Avoid confusion: Sum up the main point of your conversation and agreement—follow up in
writing to summarize your understanding of what was said and the next steps to ensure that
everyone is on the same page about the plan of care.

What tips can you share that have helped you avoid being aggressive when you want to be assertive?
Email me at, and I will use them in a future article.

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    About The Author

    • Anne Llewellyn

      Anne Llewellyn is a registered nurse with over forty years of experience in critical care, risk management, case management, patient advocacy, healthcare publications and training and development. Anne has been a leader in the area of Patient Advocacy since 2010. She was a Founding member of the Patient Advocate Certification Board and is currently serving on the National Association of Health Care Advocacy. Anne writes a weekly Blog, Nurse Advocate to share stories and events that will educate and empower people be better prepared when they enter the healthcare system.

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