13 April 2024

Teach negotiation and assertiveness skills

Suggestion for implementing the strategy ‘Supporting language and communication skills’

On this page:

On this page:

Current page section: Teach negotiation

Go to top of current page: Teach negotiation

Show list of page sections

Teach how to use an I-message

Teach how to use an I-message

An I-message is a de-escalation strategy that supports self expression and conflict resolution.

Instead of saying: “You stole my pencil” or “Give me back my pencil”... try an I-message:

  • I feel anxious that I won’t be able to finish my work on time when you borrow my pencil
  • I would like you to give me back my pencil.

Practice by writing or performing short plays, drawing cartoons, making posters, writing dialogue.

Visit I-messages to find more information and posters to support student use of I-messages.

Source: Goalbook (opens in a new tab/window)

Explore ways to respond

Explore ways to respond

Provide multiple opportunities for students to explore and discuss situations they find challenging.

Visit Enhancing relationships: Being assertive for more activities.

Activity 1

Students could brainstorm situations where their rights have been challenged, such as when another student queue-jumps or keeps interrupting them when they’re working. 

Students discuss their reactions to each of these situations and identify the three different ways that people deal with a challenge to their rights: passively, aggressively, and assertively.

Activity 2

Discuss and demonstrate, for example, through role-play:

  • passive response (keeping the head down, looking and sounding timid, and making no eye contact)
  • aggressive response (using a loud voice and physical force, glaring, using put-downs, and making threats)
  • assertive response (making eye contact, speaking firmly but pleasantly, and making clear statements).

Source: Health and Physical Education Online (opens in a new tab/window)

Provide an assertiveness model

Provide an assertiveness model

Use a range of options such as role play, puppets, or comic strips to practice using the assertiveness model.

An assertive person:

  • Says “NO”

  • Gives a reason

  • Acknowledges the other person’s needs or concerns

  • Suggests an alternative

  • If faced with a persistent arguer, the person says “no” three times and then walks away.

Source: Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing (p. 229) (opens in a new tab/window)

Provide a negotiation model

Provide a negotiation model

Introduce students to this negotiation model and practice using it with a range of scenarios relevant to the students.

Example scenarios

  • A wants to go to the beach. B wants to see a movie.
  • A wants B to clean up the bedroom. B likes it the way it is.

Negotiation model

  1. Preparation: Both sides decide separately on three outcomes: the best, an acceptable outcome, and the worst outcome they could accept.
  2. Discussion: One side at a time describes the facts, thoughts and feelings from their perspective. Questions can be asked to clarify understanding.
  3. Proposal/counter proposal: One side makes an offer or request. The other side makes a counter offer or request. Repeat this process aiming for a compromise.
  4. Agreement/disagreement: If there is still disagreement, return to step 1 and repeat.

Source: Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing (p. 293) (opens in a new tab/window)

Reflective questions

Reflective questions

Adapt for your own context.
  • In what areas of your regular programme could you focus on building students’ assertiveness and negotiation skills?
  • Are you modelling effective assertiveness and negotiation skills in your own practice?

Useful resources

Useful resources


Enhancing relationships: Being assertive

Learning activities to promote appropriate responses to challenging situations.

Visit website



Definition of I-message that can be used as a strategy to reduce conflict.

Publisher: Goalbook

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Supporting language and communication skills”:

Return to the guide “Behaviour and learning”

Guide to Index of the guide: Behaviour and learning

Strategies for action: