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Becoming a More Assertive Person

Updated: Mar 20

Embarking on the journey to becoming more assertive is empowering and transformative. Assertiveness, often mistaken for aggression, is a balanced way of expressing your needs and feelings openly and honestly while respecting others. This skill is crucial for effective communication and maintaining healthy relationships.

Understanding Assertiveness.

Assertiveness is fundamentally about balanced communication. It's expressing your thoughts and needs clearly without infringing on others' rights. It's a key skill that, when applied correctly, can significantly reduce conflicts and stress in your life, leading to healthier relationships and greater personal well-being.

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Benefits of Assertiveness.

1. Healthier Relationships: By being assertive, you can communicate your needs effectively, preventing misunderstandings and resentments. This leads to healthier, more honest relationships.

2. Reduced Stress: When you express your needs clearly and respectfully, you're less likely to bottle up emotions, reducing stress and anxiety.

3. Improved Self-Esteem: Assertiveness can boost your confidence and self-esteem as you learn to value your needs and feelings.

4. Better Decision-Making: Being assertive helps you to voice your opinions, contributing to more balanced and informed decisions in personal and professional settings.

Techniques for Becoming More Assertive.

1. Focusing on Facts: Address issues by stating the facts rather than using exaggerated or emotional language. For example, if someone is consistently late, calmly state the specific times rather than accusing them of always being late.

2. Using "I" Statements: Start conversations with "I feel" or "I think" to express your perspective without sounding accusatory.

3. Clear and Calm Communication: Speak in a firm yet calm tone. Avoid raising your voice or displaying aggressive body language.

4. Avoid Assumptions: Don't jump to conclusions about others' motives. Stay open-minded and empathetic.

5. Active Listening: Pay attention to others' viewpoints and ask questions to clarify your understanding.

6. Seek Compromise: Look for solutions that respect everyone’s needs.

7. Adaptability: Each situation is unique, so adjust your level of assertiveness as needed.

8. Recognize Your Successes: Celebrate your achievements in assertiveness to build confidence.

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Set Boundaries and Stick to Them.


Creating and adhering to boundaries is vital to personal and professional development. Establishing boundaries defines how others can interact with you, safeguarding your time, energy, and emotional health. It's not just about setting these boundaries; the key lies in consistently enforcing them. This consistency signals others that your limits and expectations must be taken seriously.

Examples of Setting Boundaries.

1. In the Workplace: Imagine you're working on a team project, and a colleague consistently delegates their tasks to you, encroaching on your time and workload. Setting a boundary in this situation would involve addressing this behaviour directly. You might say, "I've noticed you've passed many of your tasks to me. While I'm happy to help when I can, I need to focus on my responsibilities. Let's discuss how we can manage the workload more evenly." This approach addresses the immediate issue and sets a precedent for future interactions.

2. With Friends: Consider a scenario where a friend constantly expects you to be available at their convenience, disregarding your time. Setting a boundary here might involve saying, "I value our friendship a lot, but I also need to balance my time with other commitments. Let's plan our get-togethers so it works for both of us." This response sets a clear expectation for managing your time while maintaining the friendship.

The Importance of Maintaining Boundaries.

Enforcing boundaries can initially be challenging, especially if it involves saying no or asserting yourself in ways you're not used to. However, doing so is crucial for your well-being and self-respect. Over time, as you consistently uphold your boundaries, you'll likely find that others respect them, and your relationships become healthier and more balanced.

Remember, setting and maintaining boundaries is an ongoing process that demands self-awareness, effective communication, and the courage to prioritize your needs. It's about drawing lines and nurturing respect, understanding, and healthy interaction in all your relationships.

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Utilising Assertive Body language.

Assertive body language refers to the non-verbal cues that individuals use to communicate confidence, self-assurance, and assertiveness without being aggressive. This type of body language is key in effective communication, as it reinforces the message being conveyed verbally. Key elements of assertive body language include:

  1. Posture: Standing or sitting straight with an open stance, avoiding slouching or appearing closed-off.

  2. Eye Contact: Making direct but not intimidating eye contact with others to show engagement and confidence.

  3. Facial Expressions: Using controlled and appropriate facial expressions that match the message.

  4. Gestures: Utilising open and relaxed hand gestures rather than closed or aggressive gestures when speaking.

  5. Space: Respectfully using physical space, not encroaching on others’ personal space, but also not appearing too withdrawn.

  6. Voice: Speaking in a clear, calm, and steady tone, ensuring your voice is firm but not aggressive.

  7. Movement: Avoid fidgeting or unnecessary movements that can convey nervousness or uncertainty.

  8. Relaxed Shoulders: Keeping your shoulders relaxed, not tensed or raised, can convey stress or defensiveness.

  9. Controlled Breathing: Practicing controlled breathing helps to maintain composure and steadiness in your voice and demeanour.

  10. Head Nods: Using nodding to show understanding and engagement in the conversation, which can also encourage the speaker.

Assertive Body Language in the Workplace.

At work, assertive body language can be particularly effective during meetings or presentations. For instance, if you're sharing an idea or providing feedback in a meeting, standing (or sitting) tall with a straight posture can convey confidence. Make direct eye contact with your colleagues to engage them and demonstrate your conviction in what you're saying. Use open and relaxed gestures instead of crossing your arms or fidgeting, which can suggest defensiveness or nervousness. These actions can command attention and respect, making your message more impactful.

Assertive Body Language with Family.

In a family setting, assertive body language can also be beneficial, especially when discussing important matters or resolving conflicts. For example, during a family discussion, maintaining an open stance and avoiding aggressive gestures like pointing fingers can create an atmosphere of respect and openness. Good eye contact with family members signifies that you are engaged and value the conversation, promoting a more honest and respectful dialogue.

Dealing with Non-Assertive or Aggressive Responses.

In your journey towards becoming more assertive, one of the challenges you might encounter is dealing with non-assertive or aggressive responses from others. It's crucial to remember that while you can control your actions and reactions, you cannot control how others respond. However, you can employ strategies to manage these situations effectively, maintaining your assertiveness without escalating conflicts.

Understanding the Response.

When faced with a non-assertive or aggressive response, the first step is understanding the underlying reasons for such behaviour. People may respond passively due to a lack of confidence or a desire to avoid confrontation. On the other hand, aggressive responses often stem from frustration, feeling threatened, or a lack of understanding of assertive communication. Recognising these factors can help you respond more empathetically and strategically.

Responding to Passive Behaviour.

In situations where someone is responding passively, encourage open communication. You might say, “I’ve noticed you seem hesitant to express your opinion. I value your input and would like your thoughts on this.” This approach can help the person feel more comfortable and valued, fostering more assertive interaction.

Handling Aggressive Reactions.

Dealing with aggression requires a calm and composed approach. Maintain your assertiveness while ensuring you don’t mirror their aggressive behaviour. Use phrases like, “I understand that you’re upset. Let's try to find common ground ” to acknowledge their emotions while steering the conversation towards a more constructive path. Keep your tone steady and your body language open, as escalating the situation with similar aggression will not be productive.

Maintaining Assertiveness.

In both scenarios, it’s essential to maintain your assertive stance. Assertiveness is about respecting both your rights and those of others. Stand your ground on your views and needs, but be open to listening and understanding the other person’s perspective. This balance is key in managing such interactions positively.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution.

1. Active Listening: Show that you are listening and value the other person’s viewpoint. This can often de-escalate a situation.

2. Empathy: Try to understand the situation from their perspective. Empathy can diffuse tension and lead to more productive discussions.

3. Clear Communication: Reiterate your points calmly and clearly. Avoid using jargon or complex language that might be misunderstood.

4. Seeking Compromise: Where possible, seek a compromise that acknowledges both parties' needs.

5. Avoiding Retaliation: Do not respond to aggression with aggression. Stay composed and focused on the issue at hand.

Practice and Patience.

It's important to remember that becoming proficient in handling non-assertive or aggressive responses is a skill that requires practice and patience. Each interaction is a learning opportunity, helping you to refine your approach and become more adept at maintaining assertiveness in various situations.

While encountering non-assertive or aggressive responses can be challenging, employing empathy, active listening, and clear communication can significantly aid in managing these situations effectively. The goal is to maintain your assertiveness while fostering an environment of respect and understanding, ultimately leading to more constructive and harmonious interactions.

More Resources.

For more information and detailed guidance on becoming more assertive, explore resources from Psychology Today UK, Revolution Learning and Development Ltd, SkillsYouNeed, and These platforms offer comprehensive insights into assertiveness, its applications, and techniques to enhance your assertive skills.

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Overcoming Challenges in Assertiveness.

It's common to feel guilty or selfish when you start being assertive, especially if you're used to putting others' needs first. Remember, it's not selfish to respect your own needs and boundaries. Teaching others how to treat you respectfully is vital to self-care and personal development.


Being assertive is a skill that benefits both your personal and professional life. It allows for open, honest communication, a skill that can be learned and improved over time. Embracing assertiveness will lead to more balanced relationships, reduced conflict, and increased self-confidence.


Regards, Paula

Careers and Personal Growth Coach

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