When someone asks you to do something, do you feel you can't say "No" without feeling guilty? Being assertive means being able to decide whether a request is reasonable or not and then feeling comfortable if you do decide to say "No".

Do you sometimes agree to requests under pressure and then feel angry afterwards? Being assertive means asking for time to think it over and decide whether you want to do what you're asked, or not.

Do you expect others to read your mind and know what you want without telling them? Being assertive means asking for what you want, not hoping someone will notice what you want and then complaining later when you don't get it.

Assertiveness is a two-way process. It means understanding your rights and other people's rights and being able to stand up for your rights without violating those of others.


Why do I need to be assertive?

Assertiveness means expressing your needs, feelings and beliefs in an open, honest manner. This will help you in all your relationships -with partners, parents, friends, in-laws, children, colleagues, managers, salespeople, or anyone you come into contact with in your daily life.

Be open and honest about what you want or don't want, and what you feel. Your needs and feelings will then become more clear to others, leading to better understanding between you.

When you express what you want or don't want openly, you are less likely to feel angry about never getting your needs met or about being manipulated. Being assertive can also improve your self-esteem. It can be particularly beneficial to be assertive in situations where you feel threatened or bullied.

How can I be more assertive?

There are many ways you can work towards being more assertive. Try and:

Identify how you feel about things. For example, "I feel angry", "I feel embarrassed". Use everyday words to express how you feel e.g. "I feel stepped on". Describe your feelings using "I" statements instead of blaming others e.g. "I feel hurt" rather than "You hurt me".

Connect your feelings statements with BEHAVIOUR e.g. "I felt hurt when you left without saying goodbye" not "I felt hurt because you were inconsiderate". Be direct. Deliver your message to the person for whom it is intended instead of complaining to others. Avoid sarcasm and absolutes like "you never..." or "you always..." as well as name-calling.

Ask for feedback. "Am I being clear?" This shows you are open to communication and are expressing an opinion, feeling or request, rather than a demand. Evaluate your expectations. Are they reasonable? Be willing to compromise.

How to make assertive requests

  • Make a clear statement of exactly what you want the other person to do.
  • Express your request in one or two simple sentences.
  • Don't apologise, hint, flatter, or manipulate. 

Remember: You have the right to ask and the other person has the right to refuse. You don't have to justify why you don't want to, would rather not, or would prefer not to. Be direct and unapologetic.

Where can I find help?

Ask at your local library about courses being run in your area or check on the internet. If you don't feel like you could cope with a group, some counsellors work with assertiveness. It can help to improve self-esteem and communication problems.

Speaking to a counsellor will help you to decide whether you just want to focus on the lack of assertiveness, or whether you have other issues you would like to address.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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