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How to be Assertive

Updated on March 22, 2010

To achieve your goals, it pays to be assertive. How can you learn to be assertive without appearing aggressive?

Assertiveness is not aggression. Assertiveness is asking for what you want and need, but it is based on the premise "I'm OK, you're OK". It shows you respect yourself and the person you are dealing with. It is very different from being passive - "I'm not OK, you are OK" -  and from aggression where "I'm OK, you're not OK".

Neither passivity nor aggression is beneficial - especially where your career is concerned. Do you want to be seen as a pushover? Someone who may be pitied, but not respected? Being passive may give people that impression. Not only will you not get what you want but also you may find you feel unappreciated.

Passivity may get you an easy life by allowing you to avoid stress and conflict. But are you also giving the impression that you don't respect the person you are dealing with? Do you doubt their ability to take disappointment, to shoulder responsibility, to tackle problems? These are all signals you could inadvertently give out.

However, it is important not to appear aggressive. Aggression will cause resentment from others and you may find people even less inclined to help you.

Assertiveness treads the middle ground. It gives you the right to express your feelings, ask others what they feel and come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.

How to be assertive

Think about your message. What is the situation, how do you feel, and what do you want to happen? State your facts, feelings, and requirements to the person you are talking to. Identify the source of the problem, say how you feel and suggest what you would like to do to rectify the situation. This method concentrates on how you feel, and should result in a positive response rather than an aggressive one.

Other things to think about are:

  • Acknowledge your own feelings
  • Be clear, specific and direct in what you say
  • Be prepared to repeat  yourself
  • Keep calm
  • Respect the rights of the other person - make sure you are not being unreasonable

Confront your fear

Many of us have fears about asserting ourselves. What makes you fearful? Is it feelings you have about yourself or thoughts about what other people might think of you? Identifying your fears will help you face them next time you need to be assertive. What are you scared of?

Remember these are only thoughts not actual events. Being assertive will help you get what you want and feel more confident.


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