7 Ways to Be More Assertive with People

One of the most difficult things for people to do is to be more assertive and to stand up for themselves with others. In this post, we’re going talk about 7 ways that you can be more assertive and stand up for yourself more effectively with those people in your life. Even if you’ve tried and failed, or don’t know how to be assertive at all, try considering some of these points to help you.

  1. Know what you want: if you don’t know what you want, how will others know what you want? You need to know what you want, and be able to say it in a clear and direct way, so as others can understand you easily. If you’re wishy-washy, or aren’t clear in what you want, that’s going to come through when you try to communicate that with others. They may get confused, or will tend to assert their needs and wants over yours, diminishing your voice and pushing you back.
  2. Speak your mind loudly and clearly: you have to be clear, concise, and direct with people when you are trying to be assertive. Use “I” statements to communicate what you want, how are you want it, and when. Bring inflection to your voice, and don’t back or bow down. Be reasonable with others, and flexible, but firm in what you need or want.
  3. Be assertive, not aggressive: being assertive and being aggressive are two different things. When you’re assertive, you can politely but firmly stand up for yourself. When you’re aggressive, you are running over other people or creating harm in what you’re doing or saying, and your chances of getting what you need or want or become less. There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive, and you should learn the difference. A lot of times for people who don’t know how to stand up for themselves, they get being assertive and being aggressive mixed up, and end up defaulting on being aggressive instead.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’: people who have a hard time saying ‘no’ either avoid conflict, or are scared and apprehensive about putting off other people. A lot of times it’s difficult for people to stand up for themselves and say ‘no’, which is a form of being assertive. They are concerned about the other people and their feelings, or about looking bad themselves, or about being rejected or disliked if they were to put their ‘no’ out. Basically, they’re too worried about the other people.
  5. Take an honest look at and be mindful of the inner emotions that come up for you when thinking about being assertive or actually being assertive: there may be plenty of emotions that come up for you, including apprehension, anxiety, fear, etc. Be aware of them, and don’t let them get in the way of being assertive. Just because you’re afraid or anxious about stepping up and being assertive, doesn’t mean that they need to keep you from doing it.
  6. Don’t be manipulated, knowledged, or cajoled: there will be pushback on your assertiveness, for sure. If people are not used to you being assertive, they may be used to taking advantage of you, pushing you over, or generally not taking you seriously. They may be doing their own thing, such as manipulating you or treating you in a way that is not honoring you or respecting your assertiveness. Be aware of this, and plan for it, especially with people who you think will be difficult to be assertive with. Keep moving forward, even if you think that you are getting this from other people. Plan on this with those select people who you know your assertiveness will be difficult with, and choose your behaviors or interactions with them wisely.
  7. Continue to practice being assertive as a regular maintenance behavior: you may not have perfected assertiveness overnight, and it may take several flyovers to be able to be assertive, especially with stubborn or difficult people. It may be that being assertive once is not enough, and you may need to practice this over and over again so that you become more comfortable about it, and that the people who are you were trying to be assertive with slowly or getting a message in a consistent way.

Being assertive with others is a long process, and can be a lifelong one. Standing up, saying ‘no’ when you need to say ‘no’, and learning how to be firm and assertive, rather than passive or aggressive, is an art. People in your life may need to adjust to this new way of being for you, but you’ll be happier in the end after knowing you’ve advocated for yourself in the way you need to.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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