How to be assertive
Many of my clients complain about not being assertive enough. I know that I have had times when I found it hard to stand up for myself but I have learned that being assertive isn’t about being difficult or obstructive, it’s about a win-win situation where both parties, as far as possible, get their needs met.
Being assertive involves the following things:
- Self respect
When you respect yourself, you will be more inclined to have healthy boundaries in place that allow you to know when someone is taking advantage or where someone else is overstepping the mark. Self respect means that you know what you will accept and what you won’t. If your boundaries aren’t clear – make a list of the behaviour you will and won’t accept from others. Be more self aware so as not to be taken for a ride.
2. Take responsibility for yourself
When we see ourselves as a victim, we make ourselves powerless. Taking responsibility for what we think and do is the first start in reclaiming our ability to influence the world around us and to progress in our lives. Taking responsibility for ourselves also involves statements like: “I feel angry when you put me down” rather than: “You make me feel angry when you put me down.” We still choose what to think and how to react-we are responsible for this.
3. Make clear “I” statements
An example: I feel uncomfortable with this decision” or “I think that is a good idea to draw up an action plan”. It can come across as aggressive if we say statements such as “You always….” or “You never…”
4. Accept that you make mistakes
No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Learning to accept that and give yourself a break.You will be a more tolerant person without placing expectations on yourself that are too high. We can be assertive about our right to make mistakes – it’s okay. We all do it.
5. Enjoy your successes
Validate and congratulate yourself regularly. It’s not arrogant to like yourself and be proud of yourself, it’s healthy. Sharing your success with others is fine too.
6. Allow yourself to change your mind
It’s okay to change your opinion about something and don’t let anyone lead you to feel guilty about it.
7. Be patient with yourself
Asking for time to think a decision through is a good example of being assertive. You are entitled to this and don’t allow anyone to pressure you before you are ready.
8. Ask for what you want
Never assume that someone else will know what you want, even if you hint in many non verbal ways. Get in the habit of asking for what you want – this is also part of taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions.
9. Set clear boundaries
Let others know when they cross a boundary. For example – if someone is late, say something if it has bothered you. If someone is rude to you, ask them to please refrain from talking to you in that way. Express yourself and people will soon learn how you want to be treated.
10. Acknowledge your needs
Be self aware and understand what you need in life to feel content. Find productive ways to meet these needs. Sometimes we become so accustomed to meeting everyone else’s needs that we forget to assert our own needs which are just as important.
11. Respect other people’s right to be assertive
We all have the right to define how we wish to be treated, just as we should respect the assertive rights of others.
People often mix up being assertive with being aggressive. The fear of hurting others or being disliked and/or rejected can hinder assertiveness too. Being assertive does not mean causing conflict. It purely means that we have healthy self esteem and we wish to meet people half way, not to be trampled on by others (being passive) and not to cause unnecessary strife and difficulty to others (being aggressive). Being assertive is the reasonable ‘in between’ place that will get you far in life. Being assertive – asking for your rights to be respected – is perfectly acceptable.