How to Be Assertive - 5 Tips for Assertiveness
By Remez Sasson
What does it mean to be assertive? What is Assertiveness?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines assertiveness as:
"Disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior."
Wikipedia defines assertiveness as:
"The quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive."
Assertiveness means standing up for your rights, and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs clearly and fearlessly. This is done politely, while considering the rights, feelings and beliefs of other people.
We need this skill in all walks of life, when we talk to a salesperson at the store, deal with service providers or with clients, and in a myriad of other situations.
Assertiveness enables you to act in your own best interests, while considering the right of others. This is what differentiate assertiveness from aggressiveness.
Sometimes, on the surface, assertiveness might resemble aggressiveness, because both of them involve firm behavior and action. However, there is a great difference between the two.
Assertiveness considers the rights of others and does not hurt anyone. On the other hand, aggressive behavior is too bold, inconsiderate, and uses a loud voice, force, and sometimes vulgarity and verbal violence.
3 Behavior Options:
Suppose you disagree with your boss, or you are upset with how he treats you. In these situations you have three options:
1) Stay passive, feel hurt and say nothing. This will make you upset and angry, create resentment, and undermines your efficiency and your health.
2) Be aggressive, and show your anger and dissatisfaction loudly and angrily. This will harm your relations with your boss and you might be fired.
3) Act assertively and tell your boss, without fear, how you feel when you disagree with him, and when you are upset with something that he or she said. Do this in a diplomatic manner and with politeness, and trt to suggest a way to settle the matter.
As you see, the third option is the best. This calls for inner strength, self-discipline and acting calmly.
Passivity versus Assertiveness
You behave passively, when you outwardly accept what others say and behave accordingly, while inside you, there is disagreement. With this behavior, you allow other people control your life. This kind of behavior shows lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.
- You choose this behavior when you want to avoid disagreements.
- You choose this behavior when you want to avoid conflicts.
- Every time you don't express your opinions, for fear of not being liked, you act passively.
- Being passive gives the reins of your life to other people.
- Passivity makes it difficult to say no.
Assertive behavior is quite the opposite:
- An assertive person possesses self-confidence and self-esteem, and expresses what he or she thinks and feels.
- This behavior gives you the confidence to insist on doing things your way when you think you are right.
- It enables you to resist manipulation and to prevent people from exploiting you.
- When there is assertiveness, there is no fear to express disagreement.
You see how assertive people get their way, do things, and stand up for their rights, and you wonder what is their secret.
There is no secret.
These people were either born with this skill, or developed it, consciously or unconsciously.
You too, can develop this skill.
There are various ways to develop this skill, but one of the best and most rewarding ways, with which I have a lot of experience, is practicing willpower and self-discipline exercises. When willpower and self-discipline are strong, you can display assertiveness easily and in a natural way. I have written quite a few articles about this willpower and self-discipline.
You can also find exercises and advice about this topic in my book, Strengthen Your Willpower and Self Discipline.
How to Be Assertive - 6 Tips
1. Being assertive can be tough at first, especially for people who are usually passive, or who always try to please other people and avoid expressing their opinions, but this is not a reason to give up.
You can change the way you behave and react. You can always act differently from how you usually behave and act. You are not limited in your thinking and actions. You can be more assertive if you try. It is a skill you can learn to develop if you practice it often, despite inconvenience, shyness and the fear of confronting other people.
2. Start with small matters that don't require much assertiveness, such as:
- Asking for a better seat in the theater.
- Asking for a better table at a restaurant.
- Requesting a warm cup of coffee when you get a lukewarm one.
- Asking someone to call you later, if you are busy with more important matters.
- Learn to say 'no' at stores, when a salesperson persuades you to buy something you don't want.
- Be more assertive if co-workers try to exploit you and delegate some of their work to you.
3. Express your opinions and thoughts. Nobody knows what you want, unless you say it. Express yourself calmly, with consideration and respectfulness.
4. Avoid the venting of all kinds of excuses and apologies when you ask for something. Just state what you want and why, without apologies. If you apologize too much, when it is not necessary, you weaken your assertiveness and display weakness.
5. Practice being assertive in front of the mirror, as if your image in the mirror is someone else, with whom you are talking.
Imagine a situation that requires assertiveness, and talk to your image in the mirror, as if it is another person.
Think and find out, where you need this skill, and act and talk assertively to your image in the mirror.
Rehearsing in front of the mirror, will make it easier to repeat this behavior and attitude in real situations.
6. Rehearse various situations in your mind, in following manner:
- Imagine yourself talking assertively to someone, who goes and stands before you when you are waiting in line at the store.
- Imagine talking assertively to a salesperson, if he or she tries to persuade you to buy something that you do not want or do not need.
- Imagine acting assertively at work, when speaking with colleagues or customers.
Quotes about the Value and Meaning of Being Assertive
"The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others."
- Sharon Anthony Bower
"Asking for what you want is highly correlated with getting it."
– Thomas T. Hills
"Being assertive does not mean attacking or ignoring others feelings. It means that you are willing to hold up for yourself fairly-without attacking others."
- Albert Ellis
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How To Become Assertive