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A Therapist's Guide to Managing Anxiety in the Workplace using Assertive Communication

Anxiety, Career
3 min read

TL;DR: In This Guide You'll Learn:

  • What is Assertive Communication?
  • How it Looks in Action
  • Ways You Can Practice

I'm a LMFT in California and I often work with clients dealing with anxiety caused by workplace stress or workplace relationships. This is something that is an incredibly common experience.

Anxiety is something that almost everyone experiences to some degree, and it is often caused by stress in one's environment. Our workplaces unfortunately are often the most stressful environment in our lives. Knowing how to communicate through those stressful situations can help with building confidence, improving work-life balance, and making the most of the relationships we come across in our careers.

Incorporating assertive communication techniques instead of aggressive or passive communication can be a powerful tool to improve workplace relationships and reduce stress. So what are the differences between these three types of communication: passive, aggressive, and assertive?

Passive communication is communicating in a way that focuses on other's needs instead of your own.
Aggressive communication tends to lack empathy and solely focuses on your needs with no regard for other's desires.
Assertive communication is the happy medium where there is a desire to hold space for both your own needs and emotions, while also taking into account the emotions and needs of the other person.

An example in a workplace may be a boss asking you to work late. 

    • Passive communicators may just say "yes" because they want to meet their boss's desires, even if it is inconvenient for themselves. 
    • An aggressive communicator may blatantly disregard that boss's requests and express that "there's no way I'm going to stay late".  
    • An assertive communicator however, may offer a compromise. That compromise may sound like, "I will be heading out on time tonight, but I can assist with the project first thing in the morning." 

Time to Practice: I want you to think about how anxious thoughts may show up in your workplace. How could you use assertive communication to foster better relationships and reduce anxiety in your workplace? Think of one interaction at work recently that made you anxious. Did you respond in a way that was  passive or aggressive (or a combo of the two)? Whose needs were you prioritizing? How could you have changed your language to be assertive?

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About the therapist: Analee Phang is a California based  LMFT, who works with multiracial identifying women on building understanding of their identities and relationships. Click here to view Analee's therapist profile and learn more about her approach and style.