Body language is an art form which tells others how we feel about ourselves.  As we develop resilience, we want to become more assertive.  Here is an indicator of what your body language might be saying about you:

Aggressive Body Language Submissive Body Language Assertive Body Language
Content of Speech

demanding, blaming, making threats, firmly stating own points of view as the right one. Attacking, giving orders when it is not appropriate. Deciding for others, and they know it. Being pushy, trying to force others to do things.


Repeating ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I’m afraid’. Waffling and avoiding the point. Backing down frequently. Putting oneself down. Complaining behind the scenes. Not saying what you want. Going along with others to keep the peace or to be liked. Agreeing to do things you don’t want to do without negotiating (and doing them resentfully, badly, late or not at all).


Honest, open and to the point, saying no when you want to, giving praise and criticism, sharing and taking responsibility for your own feelings. Giving and accepting valid praise and constructive criticism. Reflecting inappropriate feedback. Stating what you want clearly, gently and firmly acknowledging your right (and that of others) to state what you want. Standing up for yourself and those dependent on you.

Eye Contact

Glaring, staring, hard days. Looking down from a height.


Avoiding eye contact. Looking up from a lower position.


Gentle, direct, relaxed gaze. Being at the same high level whenever possible.


Solid stance, perhaps hands on hips, feet firmly apart. Moving uncomfortably close to emphasise points. Trying to get physically higher, standing when the other is sitting.


Round shouldered, head down, chest cramp, slumped, staying at a lower level, e.g. sitting when the other person is standing.



Relaxed, upright, well-balanced, facing the other person directly at a distance acceptable to the other person’s cultural background.


Pointing, waving, poking with a finger. Clenched fist. Sharp flicks of the wrist. Hand-crunching handshakes. Over-hard, jocular slaps on the back.


Nervous fiddling. Generally, hands and arms turned in on self.


Balanced, open, relaxed gestures to emphasise points.

Facial Expression

Tense, clenched teeth, frown. Superior, indignant or angry expression.


Nervous smile. Apologetic hangdog or blank look.


Relax, open, firm and pleasant.


Interrupting, leaving no time for others to have their say. Incessant chatter while bulldozing.


Hesitating, leaving lots of gaps where others can butt in. Waffling for a long time or keeping quiet.


Concisely putting own point of view and allowing others to have their say.

Voice, Tone, Volume, etc.

Loud, sharp, firm and threatening.


Quiet, strained and childlike.


Low-pitched, relaxed, firm, medium volume and gentle.

To improve your self-esteem and strengthen your assertive behaviour, resilience coaching could be just what you need.