Communication is a key aspect of all relationships. Some people communicate very directly, while others are more subtle. Learning about the communication styles of you and your partner(s) can help you navigate conversations about relationships and sex. To learn more about communication styles, visit

Everybody Matters

Some ways of communicating are less conducive to equality in a relationship. 

  • Aggressive: intimidating, making someone fearful, threatening or suggesting violence (which communicates, "I matter more.")
  • Manipulative: using emotional (like guilt) or social (like exclusion) tactics to get your way (which communicates, "I matter more.")
  • Passive: not saying what you think or want, going along with another to avoid conflict (which communicates, "You matter more.")

Instead, Assertive communication promotes equality because it shows that everybody's opinions and rights matter. Assertive means clearly sharing what you think, want, and need, and listening respectfully to the wants and needs of others.

Talk It Over

In conversations about relationships and sex, everyone may have different expectations, values and needs. It's normal for these differences to emerge, and communicating about them can improve your comfort and happiness.

Tips for Assertive Communication:

  • Know what you want before anything sexual occurs. Consider in advance which sexual activities you do and do not want to engage in, and be assertive about what you are comfortable with. Even after sexual activity starts, it’s always OK to change your mind. If you start and want to stop, or have done something before but don’t want to again, say so.
  • Check in with your partner(s) often to make sure you’re on the same page. Ask, “What do you want to do?” “Would you like it if I…?” or say, “Tell me what you want.” Checking in shows respect, builds trust, and creates sexy conversation.
  • Try asking open-ended questions to invite honest answers and help you better understand someone's view. These start with "what, where, why, how, when," and don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer. For example, “What do you want to do?” is open-ended, while “Do you want to ____?” is closed-ended (yes-or-no).
  • “I statements” (such as “I feel…” or “I like…”) describe how you feel about what your partner does, rather than describing your partner’s actions. They can reduce defensiveness during difficult or awkward conversations.
  • When problems arise, discuss them privately and in a neutral space before things get sexual.

With practice, you can learn new skills and improve your communication confidence!