What does it mean to be assertive?
Being assertive means showing respect for yourself AND for others.
It’s not being a doormat. It’s not being a pushover or being afraid to say “no.”
And it’s not being aggressive either. It’s not being a bully or forcing other people to do things your way.
It’s about standing up for what you want in a way that honors the other person too.
Some people may be born with a knack for being assertive. But anyone can learn how to be more assertive. Here’s how:
Number one. Tell people what you need or want.
People can’t read your mind. If you expect others to magically know what you need, you may be waiting a very long time.
Telling people what you need in a non-threatening way is the first step to getting your needs met.
Number two. Practice saying “no.”
People pleasers get in the habit of saying “yes” to almost everything. Even if it’s something they don’t have time for or don’t want to do.
Start with something easy. Maybe you could say “no, thank you” to someone trying to give you a product sample in a store. Work your way up slowly to more challenging situations.
Number three. Use the “broken record” technique.
Some people refuse to take “no” for an answer. They will ask you to do something, and if you say no, they will ask you again. And again and again.
You have a right to say “no” without explaining. If they keep on insisting, just keep repeating the same answer. Say, “no, I’m not going to do that.”
Repeat the same line every time they try to push you into doing what they want. Be calm and polite, but firm. Eventually, they will get tired and give up.
Number four. Use “I” statements.
Assertive people start their requests with “I.” Telling someone “You should do this,” is aggressive and bullying.
If you say, instead, “I would like to do this,” you are not attacking the other person. It’s much better for the relationship!
Number five. Believe in yourself.
The more you are assertive, the more you will feel empowered. The more empowered you feel, the more you believe in yourself.
It works the other way too. The more you believe in yourself, the more you will feel empowered to be assertive. That’s called a “virtuous circle.”
Become aware of the critical voice in your head. Don’t believe everything it says! Don’t be any meaner to yourself than you would be to a good friend.
If you catch your critical voice saying harsh things, remind yourself of the ways that the voice is wrong. For example, if your inner critic says, “You can’t do anything right,” think about something that you HAVE done beautifully.
As the old poem says: Like the trees and the stars, you deserve to be here.