Learn to say no without feeling guilty - Become assertive

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication style that is an alternative to passive, manipulative or aggressive styles.

In fact, assertive communication is being straightforward, to state openly, clearly and honestly what you would like to happen, but not demanding it. It means to respect and affirm your needs and feelings whilst listening to the needs and feelings of others. 

So, assertive individuals express feelings, needs and preferences directly to another person, in a way that respects them both.

Assertiveness is the balance between a passive and an aggressive attitude and for many people this is something extremely difficult to reach.

Psychologist Manuel J Smith has listed 10 assertiveness rights in his book “When I say no, I feel guilty”.

  • You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
  • You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.
  • You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.
  • You have the right to change your mind.
  • You have the right to make mistakes - and be responsible for them.
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
  • You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
  • You have the right to be illogical in making decisions. 
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”

His message is: You have the right to say no, without feeling guilty!

In order to be assertive, you should embrace these rights and apply them every time you want communicate something, whether you are speaking to a member of your family, to your boss or colleagues, to your partner or to your friends.

Assertiveness is also strongly associated with a sense of self-worth and the more you become assertive, the more you will feel confident. This will help you deal with confrontation, enabling you to hold your own.

So, what can you do to become more assertive?

You can start by choosing one right and implementing it during the next week. Notice how you feel when it happens; perhaps you will struggle at the beginning, but once you get the hang of it do you feel empowered? 

Be aware of how people react to your new way of communicating and if there is any change/improvement in your relationships.

And then continue with all the 10 rights until you embrace them all. 

You will feel confident and have a strong sense of self-worth. The quality of your relationships will improve because they will be less conflictual and stressfull.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, W8 6UG
Written by Francesca Moresi, HCPC, BPS and MBACP Registered
London, W8 6UG

I am a psychotherapist and an occupational psychologist based in Kensington and in the City of London. With over 10 years of study, research and practice with clients from around the world, I will guide you towards reaching a unique perspective on life and relationships. My method is highly effective and you will soon perceive the benefits of it.

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