Tips for being assertive

Being assertive means we’re able to say what we want or need, without allowing others to dictate their needs over ours. When we can communicate in an open way, we are being assertive.

It is important though that we never allow judgments that are not our own to become more important than our own thinking. As children, we often have very little choice over the choices our parents make, without giving a thought as to whether those choices are right for us.

I was a child who aimed to please, so my parents automatically assumed I would fall into line with their decisions, which made their parenting of me a lot easier. But in doing so, I denied myself a voice that would allow others to know my thoughts and opinions, which would have formed part of my personal growth.

As we continue to please, we eventually come to realise that pleasing others can’t please us.  When we consciously make those connections and come to understand why pleasing others doesn’t help us, we open ourselves up to change.

Of course, when we eventually stop pleasing, it won’t always meet with another person’s approval. But that’s fine, it’s not meant to.

The following suggestions may be useful:

  • We have the right to express our feelings on what we want even if those feelings don’t tie in with someone else’s;
  • We must voice our own opinions and say what we feel when we need to;
  • It’s important for us to make our own mistakes; we need to be allowed to make them;
  • We all have a right to say no to taking on responsibility for someone else if that someone else is capable of being responsible for themselves;
  • We’re entitled to have our own thoughts and opinions;
  • We have a right to say no if what we’re being asked isn’t what we want to do;
  • We shouldn’t have to seek approval of others in order to live our lives;
  • Others will always have their opinions, but it’s up to us to have our own opinion and not allow others to dictate the way they see us.

We have a right to be assertive, in the same way others have a right to be assertive for themselves.

4 Jan, 2011

10 thoughts on “Tips for being assertive

  1. Being assertive is important, but first and foremost we have to be honest to ourselves.

    In seeking to please others we sometimes suppress our real feelings and needs and this can do us no good in the long term. It is difficult to learn to do, but something we must get to grips with.

    I remember having a job interview as a graduate and being asked if I can so ‘no’ to people. The interviewer even asked me to practice saying ‘no’ in front of him. I thought that was really stupid but looking back now I guess he new what he was talking about.

    By the way, i didn’t get the job!

    1. You are absolutely right, when we please others we generally don’t do what pleases us, because were pleasing someone else, either out of fear or reprisal for not doing what someone asks.

      We have to be honest to ourselves and being assertive allows us to be that. I believe it will also bring more peace into our lives.

  2. We do need to be assertive, but growing-up I was not. This is a problem I still struggle with today. While I have no problem sending back under/over cooked food in a restaurant; I still have a problem voicing my opinion with my family.

    Not sure if it’s a “don’t rock the boat” thing, but I don’t like to stir things up at family gatherings.

    1. Bill, believe it or not I was exactly like you growing up, I too didn’t want to rock the boat with my family either and although I was a pleasing child it was just easier for me to continue to please, because it was easier.

      Funnily enough when I did start to rock the boat a little; my family weren’t best pleased and I did meet with some opposition, but it was the best thing I ever did. The first time is the hardest, but it’s a relief when you do it.

  3. I almost didn’t graduate from nursing school because in their words “You’re not assertive enough.” Can you believe it! I learned to be assertive in one of the worst ways I think. From my first husband because of an abusive relationship.

    I remember the first time I defended myself to him; I actually shocked him. I was shaking in my shoes of course, but I did it and have been doing it ever since. Probably not enough sometimes; my will isn’t strong enough.

    1. Lisa, sorry to hear about your first marriage. You tried in being a little more assertive, that’s great. I think that sometimes when we’re pushed to the limit; we do the things we didn’t know we could. Now that you know you can be assertive; you will do it again.

      I also think being told that “you’re not assertive enough” is enough to want to prove to others that you are. Never stop proving that Lisa. Thanks for posting.

  4. I too was very much like you as a child Ilana, as I put my disability as being negative and not as good as others. I was haunted with feelings of being the Ugly Duckling and never pretty/normal as my siblings and peers were.

    At the age of 25 I joined an assertiveness course and learned being assertive wasn’t being bad, as long as others understood what we were portraying, but if not kept control of, there can be a tendency to go too far and be more like an aggressive person and bossy over time.

    I liked Bill’s comment earlier and lean toward his analogy of ‘not rocking the boat,’ but in all honesty I’d rather keep my friends and family than to push them away by being assertive and die a lonely old man.

    Kikaha [pronounced as :Key Car-Har] is a lovely saying our Moari use as it means to stand tall and be strong/proud of who you are, as it kind of sums up being assertive in a nutshell.

    1. I understand the not rocking the boat analogy too, because I did that growing up, but that’s okay if others get it right. I found that not rocking the boat and doing as my family wanted didn’t win me any brownie points as far as my siblings and parents were concerned. In some respects they used it to their advantage.

      I think there has to be a balance, particularly with family. As long as we’re assertive and kind there is no harm in being assertive and saying what it is we want for ourselves. Being assertive allows us to live our lives for us, I don’t see any harm in that.

      I like the saying you’ve used Mike. As you say it sums up what being assertive is all about. Thank you for posting. Hope you are well.

  5. I was never assertive and still struggle with it a lot of the time.

    I remember clearly the exact moment I realised that looking after me and my needs was not selfish. I was watching Oprah and she said something about how looking after ourselves is not selfish; about how we cannot be good or helpful to those around us if we don’t take care of ourselves first.

    That was a turning point in my life. I still struggle to be assertive but I am more aware of myself and what motivates me to do certain things. Great article Ilana. It seems to have inspired a lot of interest.

    1. Yes I totally agree Lisa. If we don’t look after ‘us’ there will be no looking out or after others either. Assertiveness has to start at our front door! We cannot live our lives for other people, just because they want us to, or we feel we don’t want to let them down.

      I’m pleased you’re working things through for yourself. Lovely to see you on site. Thank you for posting.

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