Assertive Vs. Argumentative In ISO 9001 — What’s The Difference?

You have begun the ISO 9001 certification process. You've studied the necessary material extensively and are aware of what needs to be done to receive certification. Now you are onto the documentation, and you don't know what to do. You know what content needs to be listed, but what is the best way to get your point across?

What is the difference between assertive and argumentative in ISO 9001? An assertive approach to ISO 9001 allows for open communication to occur in all levels of the company. An argumentative approach controls who and what the conversation is about.

If you want to learn more about the difference between assertive and argumentative communication, as well as how to spot it and use it in your professional interactions, keep reading.

assertive communication

Assertive Vs. Argumentative in ISO 9001: What's The Difference?

When you are in a management position or in a team situation that requires communication, it can be easy to offend or cross a line unintentionally. You want to be able to speak your mind effectively.

However, you also know it's essential to address your employees and members of your team with respect. ISO 9001 requires successful implementation of their procedures for your company to receive certification.

One of the best ways to ensure that the implementation process is a smooth transition is through effective communication. It is essential to be assertive with your communication and not argumentative.

What Assertive Communication Does:

  • Relaxes the work environment
  • Encourages teamwork
  • Makes all opinions equal

At the same time, though we don't want to appear too passive. If our communication skills aren't strong enough, then we are not able to effectively make our point to our audience.

This can be a delicate line to walk. We are taught early on that success comes from displaying forward thinking and dynamic behaviors.

These types of actions are reflected in both assertive communication and argumentative communication. There is a difference, though, which can be found in audience awareness and intent.

When you communicate assertively, you are expressing what you want clearly and concisely. You are also acknowledging your audience (your employees and/or team) and their opinions. Assertive speaking is a respectful way to express your thoughts and ideas.

There are other identifiers of assertive communication, such as having a relaxing presence in the room, participates with the group, and equalizes everyone in the situation.

An assertive speaker's ability to relaxes others around them helps to create a more communicative and honest environment. When implementing ISO 9001 procedures, the employees are more likely to open up about concerns or questions regarding the changes being made.

Being able to make themselves part of the group rather than trying to control the group shows that the speaker is open to ideas brought to the table. When ISO 9001 certification begins, there is a steep learning curve for everyone involved in the process employer and employee alike.

Showing a willingness to work with the employees helps them become less daunted by all the information they need to learn.

When the speaker creates a space where everyone is equal and that their thoughts and ideas have merit, the company can only grow.

Again with ISO 9001 certification, there is a lot to learn, an equalizing environment where everyone is learning together will encourage employer and employee alike, creating a strong team like a relationship amongst everyone a part of the implementation process.


When you communicate argumentatively, as the title may indicate, you approach a conversation looking for a fight. You make demands of your expectations and make it clear that there is no alternative route.

Instead of creating a relaxing space for free communication, everyone becomes quiet, believing that their voice has no room in this conversation anyway.

The argumentative speaker doesn't join the group; they control it. Domineering exactly what implementation procedures will be done, how they will be done, and when

Finally, the argumentative speaker establishes early on that they are above the ones they are speaking to. While there is a noticeable power difference between an employer and employee, the argumentative speaker will not approach that power difference with respect.

These types of communication are not strictly verbal, but can also become apparent in written communication. When in the process of filing your ISO 9001 documentation, you will want to be careful about how you chose to write it, assertively or argumentatively.

One requirement for ISO 9001 certification involves creating a better work environment for your employees. How you choose to write your documentation will reflect how you approach your employees, whether real or not.

Picking between these two approaches, its obvious which one is better, not just for ISO 9001 compliance reason but for business practices in general. Assertive speaking leads to a healthier work environment, which in turn leads to better ISO practices and standards being met.

Assertive Vs. Argumentative Statements

The most obvious way to identify if someone is using assertive or argumentative behavior is through verbal cues. Assertive speakers apply the mentality of "I'm right; you're right." Argumentative speakers take the approach of "I'm right; you're wrong."

Some sample sentences of assertive statements are:

  • “You're right, and I have a different opinion in this regard”
  • “I will agree with your opinions, but you should understand how I feel about this”
  • “We are both right”

As you can see, while the final sentence focused on the agreement, and the assertive speaker doesn't automatically agree with whatever the opposing speaker is saying.

The point of assertive speaking isn't to passively agree with whatever is being said but to acknowledge that another opinion can be valid.

Through this acknowledgment, space is created where the individuals being spoken to are more open to the possibility of new ideas.

This approach would work particularly well when introducing ISO 9001 certification to hesitant employees. If your business is already successful and boasts durable quality with globally set standards, they may wonder why enforce this change now.

By recognizing those concerns as valid, the employees are more likely to view your ideas and plan towards ISO 9001 certification as legitimate, as well.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the types of sentences associated with argumentative communication styles:

  • “Please do what I say”
  • “I want everybody to agree with my views”
  • “This is how it will be done, and any counter-arguments on this issue will not be entertained”

Argumentative communication isn’t necessarily directly rude or confrontational, as can be seen from the first sentence. What argumentative communication does is eliminate outside voices or invalidate them.

If the audience being spoken to doesn't believe they have any control or voice in the situation, they are more apt to dig their heels in. This could halt your certification before it even begins.

The Mentality of Assertive Behavior:

  • "I'm right, you're right."
  • Not passive but open

2 workmen assertive communication blueprint

How To Be Assertive Without Being Argumentative: Helpful Tips

You now know the differences between assertive and argumentative communication. Hopefully, with the information provided, you'll have learned that the best form of communication in business, whether you're vying for ISO 9001 certification or not, is the assertive approach.

Tips For Being Assertive

  • Clear speech
  • Maintained eye contact
  • Strong and relaxed posture

The only question that remains is how do you make sure that you are assertive without slipping into an argumentative style? One reliable way to do this is to pay attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues.

Verbal cues are, naturally enough, the different ways that you can speak to someone and how all these little mannerisms impact your speech.

An assertive speaker doesn’t stutter and works to make their voice sound calm and self-assured. They also do not yell or go on long tangents, but speak concisely at a level and coherent volume.

They speak at a moderate pace, neither meandering or clipped, ensuring maximum understanding of what’s been said.

They use positive reinforcing statements that focus on finding the value in both sides of the argument using logic and reason to make their point.

Non-verbal cues are the small physical mannerism that the speaker displays to appear confident and put their audience at ease. Two critical parts of effective non-verbal cues are eye contact and posture.

Maintaining eye contact can be tricky if you aren't careful. Too little eye contact will make you appear submissive and unassuming, but too much eye contact can make the ones you are speaking with uncomfortable. With too much eye contact, you can easily slip into argumentative behavior with your stare beating down on your audience.

The right amount of eye contact will put your audience at ease, making them more willing to listen to you. This also applies to posture; you want to stand up straight and avoid crossing your arms over your body.

Avoid making your body go rigid as this can make you appear too stern. Your posture should convey that you are approachable, yet capable.

With practice and attention being paid to your regular speech patterns, you should be on your way to communicating effectively and assertively in no time.


Learn More about ISO 9001


Written: 24th July 2019
Author: Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard Keen

Richard is our Compliance Director, responsible for content & product development.
But most importantly he is ISO's biggest fanboy and a true evangelist of the standards.
Learn more about Richard