Last updated July 16, 2024

Are you in charge of training adults on how to develop assertiveness both in the workplace and in their personal lives? If so, you will find here some free engaging assertiveness training activities you can use in this post.

Assertiveness Training Activities

Free Assertiveness Training Activities

Here below are the 7 assertiveness activities for adults that we promised you. Let’s get started!

1. Three Ways to Enter a Circle

Purpose of the activity: One of the key elements of assertiveness is body language.

How you move and stand can have a big impact on how you feel and how you are perceived, thus helping you build assertiveness if you get it right.

This is one of the most impactful assertiveness training activities you can use to demonstrate the importance of body language for assertiveness.

Instructions: Instruct the participants to stand and form a circle.

Then, select three volunteers and assign each person to perform one of the following roles using only their body language:

  • Passive person – using passive body language such as lowered gaze, slouched shoulders and stepping hesitantly.
  • Aggressive person – entering the circle with aggressive body language, such as tense posture, staring gaze and hands on hips with elbows out.
  • Assertive person – displaying body language such as upright and open posture, direct eye contact (but without staring) and purposeful steps.

After each volunteer has entered the circle using their assigned body language, ask the volunteers how they felt and the rest of the group how they perceived the persons entering the group each time.

Allow other participants to volunteer to enter the circle and to adopt an aggressive, passive or assertive body language, for further practice and more discussions.

Equipment, time and number of participants: You will not need any equipment and you will need at least 3 participants, and up to about 20.

In terms of time, it can take between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on how many participants practice adopting the different roles and how long you want the discussion to take.

This exercise can potentially be done online using video conferencing software, but the body language is likely to lose some of its impact. This is because participants will not be sharing the same space.

However, it could be useful to discuss how differently body language can be perceived when we communicate with someone on video as opposed to in person, and how and if this can affect the perception of assertiveness (i.e., can body language be misunderstood on video and what do we need to be careful of?).

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • How did it feel to adopt different types of body language?
  • How did body language affect your perception of people?
  • How can you use your understanding of body language to come across as more assertive in your life?

2. Giving up the Chair

Purpose of the activity: This is one of the assertiveness training activities that can be used for practising assertiveness after you have explained to your participants what constitutes assertive behaviour.

Instructions: Find one volunteer to sit on a chair and four more volunteers to try and persuade the person on the chair to give up their seat in their favour.

The four people who try to persuade the person on the chair to give it up, will each adopt one of the following behaviours: aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive and assertive.

Assign two minutes for each of these participants to try and persuade the person on the chair to give it up, using their assigned behaviour.

The person on the chair tries to resist as assertively as they can.

At the end of the game, start a discussion about the effects that each behaviour had on the person who was sitting on the chair.

You can either split the participants into groups of 5 for this activity, or you can have the remaining participants take the role of observers.

Equipment, time and number of participants: You will not need any equipment, except for a chair.

You will need between 5 and 20 participants.

It is possible to run this exercise online using a video conferencing piece of software.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • How do you feel being at the receiving end of each type of behavior?
  • As an observer, what did you notice in terms of the differences between each behavior?
  • What did you find most challenging about adopting each type of behaviour?

3. Assertiveness Chain

Purpose of the activity: This is a group exercise and one of the assertiveness training activities that focuses on communication.

The aim is for participants to practise their assertiveness skills by initiating and responding to assertive statements in a collaborative manner.

Instructions: Arrange participants around in a circle.

Ask one participant to start the activity by making one assertive statement (for instance, I believe we should allocate more resources to this project because…”).

The next person in the circle responds with an assertive statement and then makes a new assertive statement (e.g., “I agree with your point, but I think we also need to consider…”).

Continue around the circle in this manner, making sure that every participant has the possibility to initiate and respond to an assertive statement at least once.

End by discussing the flow of assertive communication and any challenges encountered.

Equipment, time and number of participants: No equipment is needed and you can run this activity either in a face-to-face training session or online.

It should take between 20 and 40 minutes to run and you will need between 5 and 15 participants.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • What were the difficulties in trying to maintain assertive communication?
  • What strategies have you learnt that can help you communicate assertively after this training in life and in the workplace?

4. Developing an Assertive Mindset

Purpose of the activity: This assertiveness training activity uses visualisation to help participants change their internal attitudes and beliefs to support an assertive mindset.

Instructions: Ask your participants to close their eyes and visualize a situation in which they want to behave assertively.

Instruct them to pick a difficult situation to handle, either something they dealt with in the past or which they are likely to face in the future and want to prepare for.

Ask them to imagine themselves behaving assertively. Instruct them to visualize everything in detail, including their body language, their inner feelings, seeing the place where they will be in detail and visualizing the persons they will talk to and their reaction.

Give your participants 5 to 10 minutes to do this and then ask them how it felt and start a discussion.

Equipment, time and number of participants: No equipment is needed and you can teach any number of participants. Allocate between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on how long you want the discussion to last.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • How did it feel to visualise yourself behaving assertively?
  • Moving forward, how do you think visualization exercises might help you feel more confident and assertive in dealing with difficult situations?
  • What was the hardest thing about visualizing yourself to behave assertively?
Assertiveness training materials

>> Assertiveness Training Course Materials

5. Assertiveness Role-Play

Purpose of the activity: This is one of the assertiveness training activities that allow participants to practise hands-on how to behave assertively in the safe setting of a workshop.

Through role-play, participants will be able to practice how to stay calm in the face of aggression (if you give them a scenario in which the other person is behaving aggressively) and how to communicate confidently (both verbally and using assertive body language).

Instructions: Prepare a set of scenarios for participants to use during the role-play.

For the scenarios, you can use common situations in which a person needs to behave assertively, such as asking for a pay rise or refusing an unreasonable request. Alternatively, if you are training staff who work in customer service, the scenario might involve a difficult customer.

On the day of the training, ask your participants to form groups of three, with one participant playing the part of the person who is trying to be assertive, another person being their opponent (e.g., the angry customer or a manager who is being asked for a payrise) and the third being the observer.

Give groups a set time to act the scenario out. Explain that the person who needs to be assertive will need to show assertiveness through both their choice of words and their nonverbal communication (i.e. body language, tone and pace of voice, etc.)

At the end of the set time, the observer (who will have been taking notes during the role-play) will give feedback on the behavior they witnessed and how assertive it was based on verbal and nonverbal communication.

Ask participants to switch roles (so everyone has a chance to practice each role) and start again.

Once the exercise is complete, hold a whole class discussion.

Equipment, time and number of participants: You will need pre-prepared scenarios, pens and paper.

You can run this exercise online by sharing the scenarios electronically with your participants and using virtual conferencing software with breakout rooms for the small group activity.

You will need at least three participants and the activity can take between 20 and 40 minutes.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • How hard was it to show assertiveness? Were there some aspects of showing assertiveness that you found harder or easier than others?
  • Which strategies did you use to show assertiveness?
  • How are you going to apply these strategies in real life?

6. Asking Line vs ‘No’ Line

Purpose of the activity: This is one of the most effective assertiveness training activities for allowing participants to practice staying assertive while dealing with rejection.

It focuses on persistence, resilience, and maintaining assertiveness when requests are denied. At the same time, the activity also focuses on being able to say ‘no’ respectfully but firmly (which is another aspect of being assertive).

Instructions: Divide your participants into two lines (if there is an odd number of people one participant can be an observer) with each member of one line facing a person from the other line.

One line is the asking line, which means that participants will have to ask the person they are facing for something (e.g., a favour or proposing an idea) in an assertive way.

The people in the other line, which is the ‘no’ line, will have to try and refuse the request as much as possible in a firm but respectful way.

After a set time, switch lines so that each person can practise both asking and saying ‘no’.

Finish off the activity with a discussion about how hard it was to ask for things and say ‘no’ in an assertive way.

Equipment, time and number of participants: No equipment is needed.

In terms of the number of participants, you will need between 4 and 20 people and timewise try to allocate between 20 and 40 minutes.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • How did it feel to assertively make a request and be refused?
  • What strategies helped you maintain assertiveness despite rejection?
  • How can this exercise help you make requests assertively and say ‘no’ firmly but politely in real life?

7. Replacing Thoughts

Purpose of the activity: This assertiveness training exercise focuses on the cognitive aspect of assertiveness, i.e. on the thoughts and the self-talk that usually accompanies a person’s attitude.

The aim is to promote positive thinking at the expense of negative thoughts that can hinder assertiveness.

Instructions: For this activity, participants can work on their own, in pairs or in small groups.

Give participants pens and paper or markers and flipcharts and ask them to write down a list of thoughts that they have, or might have, or they heard others say, which can stop a person from being assertive.

Then, ask participants to write down, next to each unhelpful thought, a positive replacement that instead can inspire a person to be assertive.

Some examples of unhelpful thoughts and their replacements might include:

  • “If I say no they will think I’m selfish” to be replaced with “It’s ok to say no when I need to. It’s impossible to please everybody all the time.”
  • “I might hurt their feelings if I don’t agree with them” to “It would be more unethical to lie to them and I can express my opinion respectfully”.
  • “I don’t like confrontation” to “Constructive confrontation can lead to better results for everyone”.

Lead a discussion about how influential your thoughts can be on your behaviour and how changing thought patterns can change your mindset.

Equipment, time and number of participants: You will need pens and paper or markers and flipcharts for participants to write down their thoughts.

If you are teaching online, participants can use a virtual whiteboard.

Questions You Could Ask for Discussion:

  • What was challenging about finding a positive counterpart for each unhelpful thought?
  • How did it feel to turn around each thought and adopt a more positive outlook?
  • How can you use this technique to adopt a more assertive mindset in your daily life?

Benefits of Assertiveness Training Activities for Adults

Assertiveness is a great skill to have both in the workplace and in your personal life.

This is why training employees, managers and everyone in general on assertiveness is very important for the benefit of individuals and teams alike.

Engaging in assertiveness training activities can have additional benefits that can have a positive impact on other skill sets, such as:

  • Communication – assertive individuals communicate more clearly and openly, without fear of rejection.
  • Confidence and self-esteem – behaving assertively and having an assertive mindset helps people understand the importance of boundaries and makes them feel more confident to handle a variety of social situations.
  • Conflict management and collaboration – assertive people are more likely to be open about what they want, while at the same time being more accepting of other people’s needs and opinions.
  • Mental and emotional balance – being assertive means that you don’t suppress your feelings or dwell on negativity and anger. So, if you are assertive, you are less likely to feel stressed overall.

Assertiveness Resources

If you found these assertiveness training activities useful, you might also want to take a look at the training course materials:

Assertiveness teaching kit
>> Assertiveness training materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono
Latest posts by Dr Valeria Lo Iacono (see all)