What It Means to Be Assertive

Updated on August 23, 2016


Do you generally struggle to be assertive?

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Here's What an Assertive Person Looks Like

President Obama exemplifies being assertive. Notice the confident body language.
President Obama exemplifies being assertive. Notice the confident body language. | Source

In life, being assertive is not an option. You are bound to experience situations when if you don't stand up for yourself, you will be taken for a ride and put to great hardship. Maybe you have already been in such a situation. It is possible to be true to yourself and stand up to someone who is forcing you into going against your wishes.

To Be Assertive, You Need to Value Yourself First

A person of low self-esteem usually struggles to be assertive. If you don't regard yourself as being a person worthy of affection, recreation, and choice, how will you stand up for yourself when someone steps on your toes? Be aware, people who blackmail and bully others into taking up responsibilities they don't really want to are capable of taking a yard when given an inch. Do not let yourself fall prey to such people!

You Are Amazing!

You deserve to be valued by the people in your life!
You deserve to be valued by the people in your life! | Source

Being Assertive Can Save You a Lot of Future Trouble

For a lot of people, saying "yes" is easier than saying "no". These people commit to more than they can do, and consequently, they are overloaded with work and miserable.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

— Alexander Pope

It's Okay to Say No

Very often, we get into trouble by biting off more than we can chew. A person who is afraid to say "no" is generally the person who takes on a load of responsibilities when it is clear that fulfilling them will be next to impossible. He or she is easily bullied into doing things that are tiresome and demanding. The person who is bullied into taking up responsibilities that he or she will clearly struggle to fulfill is generally not assertive enough.

From time to time, it is okay to say "no" if you know that doing something will affect your usual schedule and cause you discomfort.


Biting off more than you can chew is never a good idea.
Biting off more than you can chew is never a good idea. | Source

Be Aware When Someone Tries to Emotionally Manipulate You

  1. If someone is being nicer to you than he or she generally is, be alert. The person may be in need of something from you.
  2. If a person is trying to force you to do something you don't want to do, mentally steel yourself. Don't give in. Don't make a commitment. The person may try to bargain with you and give you the impression that if you don't do at least some of the work he or she wants done, you will be considered a mean person. Don't give in. It is good to maintain a distance from such a person.
  3. If a person tries to invoke sentiment to make you do something you don't want to do, don't give in.

Basically, never give in when someone tries to push you to do something you are clear you don't want to do.

Once You are Sure You Are Being Taken For a Ride, Formulate a Strategy to Deal With the Offender

When you are certain that you are being pushed (either subtly or overtly) into doing something you don't want to, quickly formulate a strategy in your mind as to how the situation must be dealt with. Emotionally-mature people do this quickly and subconsciously.

  1. Based on the tone the requester is using, decide whether you should respond gently or be firm.
  2. Decide whether to give an immediate response or ask the requester to give you more time to think thing over. More-often-than-not, the second option works better.
  3. If the requester is being downright rude, walking away is a good option.

Delay, Delay, Delay

Asking for more time to make a decision is often a very prudent thing to do. Decisions that will have a bearing on your time and experience of life deserve to be given enough time. If the requester asks you to tell him or her your decision immediately, do not do that. Just don't. Later, you will thank yourself for having saved yourself from a lot of trouble.

Be Subtle and Diplomatic

People who force others into doing unpleasant things often use soft words and an empathetic tone. Use subtlety and diplomacy to deal with them, all the while not compromising your stance. Basically, be tactful.

Diplomacy is the Better Part of Valour!

Being diplomatic is better than being combative.
Being diplomatic is better than being combative. | Source

If Absolutely Required, Make it Clear that You Don't Like Being Taken For Granted

If the requester is being extremely pushy, make him or her understand that you do not appreciate being forced to do something that you don't wish to or cannot do. Use gentle language, but be firm.

Don't Lose Your Cool

Losing your temper is possible at two particular times when an unpleasant or challenging commitment is playing on your mind.

  1. When you are being forced to do a task against your wishes...
  2. After you have committed to a task you knew you would struggle to do, when you feel swamped by work and experience stress...

Guard against losing your cool. It will affect your credibility. Being subtle is always better than being temperamentally brittle!

Don't Lose Your Temper

Conflict is never desirable.
Conflict is never desirable. | Source

Don't Burn Bridges

Keep in mind that no one is beyond redemption. If a person is being mean to you, it doesn't mean that he or she won't change in the future. As much as possible, maintain good ties with the people in your life. That is the mature thing to do.

Being Assertive Can Be Good PR for You

Being assertive can be attractive. Assertive people are behavioural champions and mature people recognize this fact.

Remember, It is Impossible to Please Everyone All the Time

You will never be popular with everyone. It's a crazy world out there. Just be yourself. Don't be unduly affected by gossip about you, that is if there is any of it doing the rounds. Be focussed on the things you want to do in life, and cherish every success you experience, no matter how small. And, finally, be compassionate, but don't allow yourself to be emotionally manipulated.

Disclaimer: Only images licensed for commercial reuse have been used in this article.


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    • rohanfelix profile imageAUTHOR

      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 

      3 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very useful tip! I will use this technique the next time I am put under pressure. Thanks!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      The broken record technique is an effective method of sayign no and being true to yourself under high pressure for requests of assistance. It involves stating your message (e.g., "Sorry, I'm overscheduled this week and I cannot help you with that."). When the person tries repeatedly to ask you or beg you to help, each time repeat the exact same phrase. This works for relentless arm twisting manipulators. Do not vary your wording. Eventually they catch on that you keep using the same annoying words. They will stop and process it, maybe be mad, but it helps you stick to your guns.


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