In today’s fast-paced world, burnout has become a common problem for many individuals. Whether it’s in the workplace, personal relationships, or other aspects of life, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted can be a daily struggle. But it doesn’t have to be this way. One effective way to prevent burnout is to practice assertiveness. 

Assertiveness means speaking up for yourself, expressing your needs and opinions, and setting boundaries. It’s a crucial skill that can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance, reduce stress, and avoid burnout. 

In this article, we’ll dive into what assertiveness is, why it’s important, and how to develop this skill. By following these steps, you’ll be able to assert yourself in a confident and effective manner, preventing burnout and living a happier life.


How to Confidently Communicate Your Truth


Assertiveness is about standing in your truth and communicating it clearly and directly, without attacking or being defensive. It’s the balance between being too passive and too aggressive. Nonassertiveness is characterized by indirect communication and a lack of confidence, whereas aggression is characterized by demands and a hostile tone.

When asserting yourself, it’s important to address irrational self-talk that may be holding you back from expressing yourself in an assertive manner. Remember, as a human being, you have the right to express your feelings, set your own priorities, and say “no” without guilt.

An important step in assertiveness communication is to identify your strengths and weaknesses and work on developing skills to bridge any gaps. This may involve challenging yourself to take small steps towards assertiveness and reflecting on your progress along the way. Remember, it’s your right to be assertive, and the more you practice, the more confident you will become in expressing yourself in a healthy and assertive manner.


How to Practice Assertiveness in Your Communication


Here are some tips for mastering the art of assertiveness adapted from Janet Wolfe:

  • Assertiveness is a crucial skill that can help prevent burnout by allowing individuals to set healthy boundaries, communicate effectively, and advocate for themselves. When saying “no,” it is important to be decisive and explain your reasoning without excessive apology. This helps establish clear boundaries and prevents burnout by avoiding overcommitment. Responding promptly and succinctly, without interruptions, also helps prevent burnout by avoiding the stress of prolonged conversations and negotiations.
  • Asking for an explanation when faced with an unreasonable request shows confidence and helps individuals avoid taking on more than they can handle. Maintaining eye contact and being mindful of body language and tone of voice conveys confidence and directness, allowing individuals to communicate their needs effectively.
  • Expressing annoyance or criticism in a constructive way, by focusing on behavior and using “I” statements, helps prevent conflicts and toxic relationships, reducing the stress and burnout that can arise from unhealthy communication. Offering solutions and keeping a log of assertive responses can help individuals reflect on their progress and celebrate their successes.
  • Remember that developing assertiveness takes time and practice, so it is important to be patient and kind to yourself as you grow in this skill. Celebrating your successes and avoiding self-criticism when struggling with assertiveness will help you maintain motivation and continue developing this important skill.


A Step-by-Step Guide for Mastering Assertiveness 


When it comes to asserting yourself in communication, a valuable tool that I’ve encountered in self-help literature is the DESC model. This four-step process provides a roadmap for constructing effective, assertive statements:

  • Describe: Briefly and objectively outline the problematic behavior, avoiding personalization or elaboration.
  • Emotion: Express your feelings using “I” language.
  • Specify: Make a clear, specific request, rather than a demand.
  • Consequence: Outline the positive outcome that may result from fulfilling the request.

By following the DESC model, you can effectively communicate your needs and desires in a clear and confident manner.


Putting This into Practice


One of the most powerful ways to cultivate assertiveness in your communication is to put the DESC model into practice. To help you get started, I’d like to challenge you to compose two DESC communications – one for a positive emotion or request, and another for a negative emotion or request.


Here’s an example of what a positive DESC communication might look like:

  • Describe: You’ve recently taken on a new project at work and have been doing an excellent job.
  • Emotion: I am feeling proud and grateful for your contributions.
  • Specify: I would like to request that you continue taking the lead on this project.
  • Consequence: Your hard work and dedication will contribute to the success of the project and the team.


And here’s an example of a negative DESC communication:

  • Describe: Your recent behavior at team meetings has been disruptive and has made it difficult for others to focus.
  • Emotion: I feel frustrated and upset by your actions.
  • Specify: I would like to request that you refrain from speaking out of turn during future meetings.
  • Consequence: This will create a more productive and respectful environment for everyone on the team.


By composing your own DESC communications, you’ll build up your assertiveness skills and feel more confident in expressing your thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to get creative and challenge yourself! Remember, the more you practice, the more effective you will become.




In conclusion, assertiveness is a crucial skill that can greatly enhance our relationships, communication and overall well-being. By incorporating the DESC model and the steps outlined in this article, we can become more confident and effective communicators, express our feelings and opinions in a healthy and productive manner, and set boundaries that are respectful to ourselves and others. Remember that assertiveness is a process, and it takes time and practice to develop. Celebrate your progress and successes, and be kind and patient with yourself along the way. With persistence and determination, you can become an assertive and authentic communicator, and live a life that is true to your values and needs.

In addition, assertiveness is a valuable skill that can help you avoid burnout. When you are assertive, you communicate clearly, express your needs and feelings, and respect the rights of others. By being assertive, you avoid the negative impact that aggressive or passive behavior can have on your life and work. Burnout is often the result of feeling unfulfilled and powerless in one’s professional and personal life. Assertiveness can help you avoid this by allowing you to take control of your life and relationships. It is an important tool for maintaining balance, avoiding stress, and protecting your mental and emotional health. Embrace the practice of assertiveness, and you will find greater happiness, success, and satisfaction in all aspects of your life.


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Dr. Sharon Grossman, AKA the Burnout Doc, is a clinically trained psychologist and subject matter expert in burnout and mental health. Associations and Fortune 500 companies hire her to be their closing keynote speaker, to help their members and executives crack the code on burnout, and create custom-tailored solutions for recovery.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Sharon has been helping high achievers who are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout go from exhausted to extraordinary by better understanding how their brain works and how they can design and run their programming on purpose to live the kind of life they want to live. She is the author of several books on burnout and mindset and host of the Decode Your Burnout podcast. Through her speaking, training, and coaching, she helps organizations keep their top talent.