Knowing how to be more assertive is an essential communication skill you can learn. When you're assertive, you can express yourself while also respecting others.
There are many benefits to being assertive. Some people seem to be naturally assertive, while other people have to learn how to be assertive. In this article, I’ll discuss what it means to be assertive, what assertiveness means, tips for being more assertive, and the benefits of being assertive.
What Does It Mean to be Assertive?
To be assertive, you must know assertive meaning. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, assertiveness is
“...the quality of being confident and not frightened to say what you want or believe...”
When people are assertive, they're sure of what they want and are willing to go after it. Assertiveness is a skill that helps you manage your life, people and situations confidently.
What's the Difference Between Assertiveness and Aggressiveness?
When you hear of someone being assertive, you may think about that one person you know who is aggressive and think you don’t want to be like them. But there's a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. People often confuse the two, so here's what separates them:
Assertiveness is being open and honest about what you want or need while still being considerate of the needs and wants of other people. Assertiveness skills mean that you use your confidence to tell others your wants and needs in a firm, fair, and empathetic way.
When people are aggressive, they do what's right for themselves without thinking about other people’s rights, needs, feelings, or desires. Typically, when people are aggressive, there's a selfish reason. Aggressive people often come across as pushy or bullying.
For example, if your boss assigns you a load of work right before you leave and then demands the work is finished today, that's aggressive. Even though the work needs to be done, the boss isn’t thinking of your needs, and they're dumping work on you at an inappropriate time.
10 Tips for Being More Assertive
It’s not easy to change your communication style. But if you're a passive communicator and want to learn how to be more assertive, you can. Here are some tips that help you become an assertive communicator:
1. Look at How You Communicate
Start by looking at your communication. Do you say yes to things when you're already overwhelmed? Do you voice your thoughts or stay silent? Before you learn how to be assertive, you need to know your current communication style.
You also need to have a good understanding of yourself. You need to know what you believe and value before going into a situation. You also need to recognize that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This will give you the confidence you need to stick up for yourself and stick up for yourself if the situation calls for it.
While self-confidence is important, you want to be careful that it doesn’t turn into self-importance. Your thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires are as important as everyone else’s but not more important than other people's.
2. Use “I” Statements
When you voice your needs and wants, you should be confident in doing so. You can do this by using “I” statements.
An example of an “I” statement is to say “I disagree” rather than “You’re wrong." If you've got a request, you say, “I would like help with this” instead of “You need to do this.” Using “I” statements sounds less accusatory and nicer to others.
When asking for help, don’t wait for someone to recognize that you need help. Instead, identify the things that you want and set goals to achieve them. Once you’ve done this, you can tell others precisely what you want confidently. Then, find ways to request what you need without sacrificing others' needs.
3. Learn to Say No
A vital assertiveness skill is knowing how to say no. You may want to please others, so you agree. But saying "yes" to everything can have negative consequences such as increased stress and anxiety.
When you aren’t used to saying no, it can be challenging. If you find yourself having a hard time saying no, try saying, “No, I can’t do that right now.”
You need to know your limit and how much you can take on and still manage tasks effectively. You also need to know what areas make you feel like you’re being taken advantage of.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s impossible to please everyone and do everything. This means that you need to protect your time by saying "no" when you need to.
When you need to say no, try to find a solution that works for everyone. For example, you could practice saying something like, "I can't have this task done by tomorrow, but I can have it done by the end of the day on Thursday."
When working on how to be assertive it's helpful to rehearse what you want to say in a specific situation.
For example, if you're going to ask your boss for a raise, then it can be helpful to practice what you want to say to your boss. Practice different scenarios so that you know what you need to say depending on what your boss says. If you can, get someone to help you practice what to say.
5. Body Language
When trying to be more assertive, it isn’t just about what you say. You need to act confident even if you may not feel confident. Have upright posture and make eye contact. Have a positive or neutral facial expression. Make sure you haven’t crossed your arms or legs. Practice assertive body language in a mirror.
To learn more about body language, study this helpful article:
6. Check Your Emotions
Most people find it difficult to deal with conflict. Some people might get angry or frustrated or even cry. All these feelings are normal. But these feelings can get in the way of resolving conflict. When people are too emotional, it can distract others from the point that you’re trying to make.
Controlling your emotions is an important part of assertiveness skills. If you feel that you’ll be too emotional going into a situation, consider waiting until you’ve calmed down. It’s best to work on being calm and keeping an even and firm voice.
7. Be Open to Criticism and Compliments
A big part of having assertiveness skills is handling criticism and compliments. You need to be open to both positive and negative feedback. You should accept feedback graciously, humbly, and positively when you accept feedback.
If you don’t agree with the criticism, then you should be prepared to explain why you don’t agree clearly and concisely. When disagreeing with criticism, make sure that you aren’t getting defensive or angry.
8. Acknowledge You Can’t Control Others
Part of knowing how to be assertive is acknowledging that you can’t control other people. This means that you don’t need to be responsible for how people react to your assertiveness.
For example, if someone gets angry at your being assertive, you shouldn’t react the same way they are. You can only control your own behavior and not other people’s behavior. It’s best to stay calm even if things get tense. As long as you’re not violating another person’s needs, you've got the right to state your needs.
9. Start Small
Start by practicing your assertiveness skills in low-risk situations. For example, if you've got a situation with a friend that calls for assertiveness, then work on being assertive with your friend first. Once you’ve practiced for a while, you can move on to a situation at work.
Every time you practice being assertive, evaluate how you did and look for ways to improve your approach.
10. Review Your Progress
When practicing being more assertive, an important step is to review your progress. In every situation where you were able to practice being assertive, review yourself. Questions like:
- How did I handle that situation?
- What did I do well?
- How could I improve next time?
Asking these questions helps keep you on track and recognize areas you could improve on. If you do have a setback, don’t be discouraged and learn from that setback.
Assertive Communication Techniques
When you're learning how to be more assertive, you can use some techniques to help you with assertive communication:
When practicing being more assertive, it’s essential to be empathetic. Being empathetic means that you try to recognize and understand how other people view the situation. Then, after you’ve considered the other person’s point of view that's in the same situation you’re in, you can ask for what you need.
You can learn more about empathy here:
When you start practicing being more assertive and have had a successful situation where you’ve been assertive, you can start being firmer. People experienced in assertiveness are firm in asking for what they need without bullying or being rude.
3. Ask for More Time
Part of having assertiveness skills is knowing when best to say something. There are some situations where it’s not best to say anything right away. There could be many reasons for this; you could feel too emotional or unsure what you want yet. If you need more time, that’s okay tell the other person you need some time to put your thoughts together.
4. Change Your Verbs
When learning how to be more assertive, you should change your verbs. You need to use verbs that are more definite when you communicate. So, use verbs like the following:
- “will” instead of “could” or “should”
- “want” instead of “need”
- “choose to” instead of “have to”
This will help you've got a clear message to the person who you’re talking to instead of sugar-coating what you want to say. When you sugar-coat things, people can be confused about what you want from them.
5. Repeat Yourself
Prepare what you want to say ahead of the situation if you can. If people don’t get what you are saying or keep trying to get you to do something that you said no to, then repeat yourself. You should keep restating what you said without giving up. Eventually, they'll understand you mean what you say.
Use this technique to protect yourself from others exploiting you. But don't use it to bully others.
Benefits of Being Assertive
Assertiveness is typically viewed as a healthy communication style. This means that there are many benefits to being assertive. When you're assertive, people are less likely to take advantage of you.
Knowing how to be assertive properly helps you from being a bully to other people. Here are four benefits of having an assertive attitude:
- You gain self-confidence and self-esteem.
- You can understand and recognize your feelings.
- You earn respect from other people.
- You improve your decision-making skills.
When you learn how to be assertive, you can effectively express your feelings to others about any issue.
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Start Developing Your Assertiveness Skills Today
Remember, building assertiveness skills takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years not being assertive, you’ll need to learn how to be assertive. You won’t just become assertive overnight.
When you learn to be assertive, you’ll be able to express your feelings and needs to others clearly. This may get you positive results in areas of your life.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in January 2022. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.