two people having a conversation

Assertiveness

Classes:
Introduction > Making the Change > What is Assertiveness > Knowing the Difference > Asserting Yourself > Role Playing > Being Assertive > Conclusion


Tips for Behaving More Assertively

If you want to be more assertive, but aren't sure how, here are some tips to get you started. But remember, the best way to become more assertive is through practice. Visit the Role Playing and Sample Situations section of this course for some test cases and try practicing with friends, family, or counselors.

Speak up when you have an idea or opinion.

This is one of the biggest steps toward being more assertive and can be easier than you think. It may be as simple as raising your hand in class when you know the answer to a question, suggesting a change to your boss or coworkers, or offering an opinion at a party (even if it's just your opinion of a new movie or book.)

Stand up for your opinions and stick to them.

It can be a little harder to express opinions and stick to them when you know that others may disagree, but try to avoid being influenced by others' opinions just out of the desire to fit in. You may change your mind when someone presents a rational argument that makes you see things in a new light, but you shouldn't feel a need to change your mind just because you're afraid of what others may think. Like as not, you'll gain more respect for standing up for yourself than you will for not taking a stand.

Make requests and ask for favors.

Most people find it hard to ask for help when they need it, but people don't always offer without being asked. As long as your requests are reasonable (for example, "Would you mind holding the door while I carry my suitcase to the car?" as opposed to "Would you mind carrying my suitcase to the car while I hang out and watch TV?") most people are willing to help out. If your requests are reasonable (meaning, would you agree or respond kindly if someone asked the same of you?), don't feel bad about asking.

Refuse requests if they are unreasonable.

It's perfectly appropriate to turn down requests if they are unreasonable or if you don't have the time or resources. For example, if someone asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or you think is wrong, it's fine to simply say no ("I'm sorry but I don't feel right doing that" or "I'm sorry but I can't help you with that.") It's also fine to turn down someone if you feel overwhelmed. If you are concerned that you aren't being fair to others, ask if their favors are fair to you (would you ask the same of them? would you expect them to say yes every time?) You can always offer to help in the future or help in another way ("I'm sorry but I don't have time to help you with that today, but I could help you tomorrow" or "I won't write your report for you, but I'd be happy to talk to you about it and read it over when you're done.") As long as you don't turn down every request that comes your way, you shouldn't feel guilty.

Accept both compliments and feedback.

Accepting compliments seems easy, but people often make little of them because they are embarrassed ("Oh it was nothing" or "It's not a big deal".) But don't make less of your accomplishments. It's fine to simply say "thank you" when people give you compliments -- just don't chime in and begin complimenting yourself or you'll lose their admiration pretty quickly! ("You're right, I AM great!") Similarly, be prepared to accept feedback from others that may not always be positive. While no one needs to accept unwarranted or insulting advice, if someone gives you helpful advice in the right context, try to accept it graciously and act upon it. Accepting feedback (and learning from it) will often earn you respect and future compliments.

Question rules or traditions that don't make sense or don't seem fair.

Just because something 'has always been that way' doesn't mean it's fair. If you feel a tradition or rule is unfair to you or others, don't be afraid to speak up and question why that rule exists. Rather than break a rule or law, find out the reasoning behind it. If you still think it's wrong, talk to friends or coworkers, work with counselors and legislators, and see if there is a way to change it. While some rules are less flexible and should be respected (for example, a family's decision not to allow cigarette smoking in their house or the state laws about drunk driving), others may be open to debate (for example, why a public place doesn't have wheelchair access or your school computers aren't compatible with assistive technology.)

Insist that your rights be respected.

While you want to choose your battles carefully (the right to equal pay in the workplace is probably more important than your right to wear your Hawaiian T-shirt to work on Fridays), you do have basic rights that you should feel comfortable standing up for. Some of these rights may be guaranteed you under law, such as your medical, employment, and educational rights. Other rights may involve basic courtesy - such as the right to be treated fairly, equally, and politely by friends, coworkers, and family.

Next: Tips for Behaving Less Aggressively


Mountain State Centers for Independent Living