Do you wonder how to be assertive?
- What does ‘assertive’ mean?
- How to be more assertive in your everyday life?
- How to define the word assertive?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines assertive 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 to learn how to be more assertive in the various situations of our life. Often, we feel uncomfortable to assert ourselves. We feel that this means to be aggressive and kind.
In most cases, this assumption is not true.
Sometimes, people display anger or aggressiveness, which are mistakenly interpreted as assertiveness.
Where do we need to display this skill? Where we need it?
- We need it when talking to a salesperson at the store, dealing with service providers, and sometimes, when dealing with customers.
- We need it when coming in contact with manipulative or stressful people.
- We also need this skill in difficult situations, when we face obstacles, and when we hear the word ‘no’.
What is Assertiveness?
What does being assertive mean? How to define it?
- It means being able to protect your rights and interests.
- It means not accepting the word ‘no’.
- It means being courageous and not afraid to state your opinions.
- It means displaying confidence and self-esteem.
- It means not giving up due to shyness or fear.
Assertiveness versus Aggressiveness
Assertiveness enables you to act in your own best interests, while considering the right of others. This is what differentiate it 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.
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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 get 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 propose 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
If you lack confidence you will probably act in a passive way. You will accept what other people say and would show no resistance, while inside you, there would be disagreement, anger and resentment.
With this kind of behavior, you allow other people to control your life and affect how you feel. This kind of behavior shows lack of self-confidence and lack of self-esteem.
- You choose a passive behavior when you want to avoid disagreements.
- You choose a passive behavior when you want to avoid conflicts.
- Every time you do not 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 prevent people from exploiting you.
- When there is assertiveness, there is no fear to express disagreement.
You Can Become Assertive
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 willpower and self-discipline.
You can also find exercises and detailed guidance about this topic in my book, Strengthen Your Willpower and Self Discipline.
How to Be Assertive – Tips and Guidelines
Below, you will find tips and guidelines on how to be assertive. It is important to practice them if you wish to get results.
1. You can change the way you behave and react
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. However, 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 can be more assertive if you train yourself.
You can learn how to be assertive, and resolute. It is a skill you can learn and develop if you practice it often, despite inconvenience, shyness and the fear of confronting other people.
2. Start small
Start with small actions 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. Expressing yourself
Express your opinions and thoughts. Nobody knows what you want, unless you say it. Express yourself calmly, but firmly. People will respect you more when you are resolute and express yourself clearly.
4. Avoid excuses and apologies
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 before a mirror
Practice being assertive in front of the mirror, as if your image in the mirror is someone else, with whom you are talking. In this way, you can improve your body language, posture, tone of voice, and your confidence.
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. Mental rehearsal
Rehearse various situations in your mind, in your imagination, in the following manner:
- Imagine yourself talking assertively to someone, who barges in 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.
7. Body language
Your facial expression should show strength. Don’t be afraid to establish eye contact. Stand tall without slouching.
8. Style of communication
Your style of communication should show confidence, not timidity. This should be also noticeable in the tone of your voice. This would enable you to display more effective communication.
9. Communication skill
For assertive communication, stay calm. Avoid aggressive communication style, as this might alienate people.
10. People pleasers
Stop being a people pleaser. Be helpful and loving, but you don’t have to please everyone. If you become a people pleaser, people might take advantage of you and manipulate you to their needs.
How to be assertive? Frequent practice of the above-mentioned points is the secret to improvement and mastery of this skill.
Quotes about the Value and Meaning of Being Assertive
Reading quotes about being assertive can inspire, motivate and teach how to be more assertive. Here are a few:
“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others.”
“Asking for what you want is highly correlated with getting it.”
“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.”
“Once you have a major success with assertiveness, you learn that it’s a much healthier path than being a doormat to the insensitive folks. You gain respect for yourself, have more time for your priorities, and develop authentic and healthier relationships.”
Image source – DepositPhotos
Wish to develop this skill? Read and practice the advice and exercises in our book about willpower and self-discipline mentioned below.