How Can I Be Assertive?

How Can I Be Assertive?


Assertiveness can be learned and become part of your normal personality. It takes weeks of practice to achieve confidence in this skill but, by practising the ideas given below you will make a success of it.

If you feel that you are too timid to be assertive, think of this. If you were asked to prepare a talk about political influences on business, and deliver this to a roomful of business men, it is fairly certain you would be quite fearful. Just try to imagine your feelings.

Now change the subject to the mistreatment of children delivered to a roomful of mothers and you would probably feel strongly enough about the topic, to be able to say, a few words on the subject.

This example is not ideal but you will get the idea, that given the circumstances, you probably could face up to people and be assertive. You already have a degree of assertiveness in you, it just needs developing.

What is Assertiveness 

Many people think that being assertive means shouting, posturing and being aggressive – Wrong.

Being assertive is not about dominating others but about making sure your voice is heard’. It is often about getting your point of view accepted using persuasive techniques.

Assertiveness Involves:

  • Being able to say what you think or feel and without ever losing your temper.
  • Taking responsibility for your own words and actions
  • Being able to receive feedback and giving feedback to others.
  • Understanding that it is always best to say ‘NO’, when you need to.
  • Being able to ask for help or support should you need it;
  • Standing up to awkward people;

Basic Assertive Principles

  1. Always ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
  2. Avoid quick reactive statements – Think first before you speak.
  3. Don’t say ‘yes’ just to please someone. Your politeness can get you into trouble.
  4. Maintain eye contact during all conversations.
  5. Make your statements very clear and specific.
  6. Stick to your point and avoid personalising it.
  7. Always be polite, but always be firm.
  8. Always give praise where it is due. This is preferable at the start of any discussion.
  9. Explain the advantages and benefits of any proposal you are making.

Assertion Dialogue

Every circumstance is different but you quite often need to be assertive in getting someone to carry out a simple task.

To get your requirements accepted you can use a technique known as the “broken record” method. This means repeating your request several times during the dialogue.

For example, consider this conversation between a contractor and a depot manager.

“I need to get a mini excavator on site today for the pump house foundations.”

“We don’t have any available they are all out on contracts.”

“I need the excavator before I can start work on the foundations.”

“We won’t have one available until next week.”

“Okay, but I can’t start working on the foundations until I get an excavator  – it will look bad to the boss.”

“Hm! I’ll telephone around the local plant hire people, I should be able to get one in for this afternoon.”

Using first and second person statements

Many people do not appreciate the impact that their choice of words and phrases have on others.

You gain more acceptance for your ideas if you follow this guide.

A team have just obtained a productivity award, as boss your comment is – “YOU  have all done very well etc.

A team is well behind with an order delivery, as boss your comment is – WE are not doing so well at the moment etc.

Avoid using phrases that sound accusative.


As a boss walking around your factory you see an excessive number of bought in widgets piled up around the stores. You need a word with Bill the store man.

You do not call him over and start a discussion like this:

“Bill, get over here. What the hell are all these widgets doing lying about? You’ve over ordered haven’t you?”

What you do is go over to him calmly and ask:

“Hi Bill, have we a problem with these widgets, there seems to be quite a lot of them”.

This might seem passive rather than assertive but it is not. In the former case you make an enemy (no future co-operation) you get no respect you are just a bully. In the second case you have a chance to explore with Bill what has gone wrong. It may be nothing to do with Bill, but a suppliers error. The thing is you still have respect and maintained your authority.

Key Points

Believe that every one is equal as an individual and that you have undisputed right to your point of view just as your colleagues have.

Being assertive means knowing where to draw the line between assertion and aggression

You cannot develop assertiveness from an office chair. You need to get out and about so as to become a real personality to your colleagues.


Being assertive means standing up for yourself even in the most difficult situations.

As your assertiveness improves, so will your productivity and efficiency. Start today and begin to see how    being assertive allows you to work with people to accomplish tasks, solve problems, and reach solutions. This applies both at home, in your social life and at work.

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