In Brief

Here’s how to be more assertive in one sentence: be yourself and hold your ground.

Do you want more? Ok, sure…

Here’s an article I wrote for you with some practical tips on how to be more assertive. 🙂

In Full

A question I’m sometimes asked when delivering leadership or communication skills training is: “how can I be more assertive?”

It’s a strange question for me to answer because I am not a naturally assertive person, in the same way that I am not a natural leader or public speaker.

However, as an introvert I am very good at analysing successful people and how they act and think.

By modelling what other people have done I have been able to create similar and sometimes better results for myself.

A key skill to learn in life and business is how to be assertive.

Assertive not Pushy

Contrary to what many think, being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy, aggressive, or a bully.

Being assertive simply means taking the initiative, speaking up, or holding your ground in any situation where you have a potential to lose or gain something.

What would you do?

If you’re in a bar and the waiter short changes you but you don’t speak to them about it, you will not only lose that cash but also an amount of your confidence to deal with a difficult situation.

In that same situation if you speak with the staff member and explain the situation calmly and confidently, they will often realise their mistake, correct their error and on occasion you could get a free drink: I have!

But the real prize here is the confidence and self-assurance you gain from being able to deal with this situation assertively.

You can’t manufacture short change incidents.

Don’t claim you’ve been short changed when you haven’t either: that’s just mean.

But, you’re probably thinking how can I learn to be more assertive?

How can I manufacture an assertiveness building lab?

Well, here’s how I have developed some skill in being assertive over the years.

I used to be shy and badly introverted.

Now I confidently ask for what I want when I want it, but always make sure I’m not being pushy or aggressive.

If I overstep the mark I apologise. Make no mistake, this is being assertive too.

Here we go:

1. Make Your Own Choices

Assertive people make their own choices.

If you want to be more assertive, make your own choices:

  • From the menu in restaurants
  • In a shop from the confectionary
  • When deciding where you go on holiday
  • What movie you watch on Netflix
  • Your child’s name.
  • When to go to bed (if you’re over 16 years old).

It will feel uncomfortable at first to make your own choices and sometimes you’ll make a terrible choice: deal with it.

If you order something horrible from the menu, laugh to yourself about it and try to convince someone to share theirs in exchange for your ‘delicious dish’ for fun.

If you chose go to the worst place in history on holiday, make the most of it, safe in the knowledge it was your choice.

Make your own decisions and you’ll start to be more assertive.

2. Stay In Your Lane

This is a strange one, but super effective.

I have a friend who was always painfully anxious.

I saw him after a few years apart and I noticed that he had developed a super amount of assertiveness.

He couldn’t tell me why, but I studied him, in the least creepy way I could.

When he was giving me a lift home from the City one day, I noticed something really interesting.

The left hand lane on a dual carriageway was closed.

We waited in the right hand lane patiently in a bit of a build up.

Cars were sneakily streaming past us in the left lane trying to cut in at the front of the queue further down the road.

My friend simply drove out into the left hand lane and held up the cars passing by.

He held the queue all the way to the front like an absolute champion, and I think I saw other drivers applauding (in my mind at least).

I tried this and ceased to be anxious when I realised:

“I am doing this for the greater good!”

You can hold up traffic, say your peace in an internet discussion, or just say ‘no’ to someone for a change.

Being passive is a useful skill when dealing with emotionally charged situations, but developing assertiveness requires you develop boldness.

3. Align Your Thoughts And Actions

If you want to be more assertive you need to ensure that your vision, values, and goals are in alignment with your behaviour.

Assertive people are congruent.

Their thoughts and actions are in alignment.

This takes time, but the first step is to know what you want your boundaries to be like a military general.

What will you defend and what will you cede in a negotiation?

Ask yourself: “why do I deserve these things?”

The territory here is your own personal limit.

Think about it, you have to take care of yourself more than you take care of the people around you.

You may have an urge to protect your children, but if you don’t protect yourself first how can you protect them?

Write out your goals and vision as well as your values and then focus on them in any situation.

Only write these out when in a neutral emotional state so you are thinking objectively.

4. Practice With People

To be more assertive you must practice with people.

Practice speaking and do not stop if you are interrupted.

Introduce yourself at networking events and break out of the shell of shyness.

If you want to be more assertive you can only get so far by talking to yourself in a mirror.

Just imagine you are a basketball player.

You can learn about throws and how to dribble from a book and know all the moves by heart.

But until you actually bounce the ball and feel the weight in your hand, you cannot improve.

Taking action is the only way to become more courageous.

5. Know Your Rights

You will almost certainly know your legal rights, but you should know your moral rights as well. You have the right to:

  • request anything you want that doesn’t cause harm to yourself or others.
  • say no or refuse any request given to you that doesn’t involve arrest or subpoena.
  • uphold justice for yourself and others.

You’re entitled to these rights the same as everyone else.

You are not going to cause offense to anyone by upholding these rights.

If you do offend anyone by upholding your rights, it is likely they were trying to manipulate you or take away your rights.

The Way Forward

Do you have to hold up traffic or order awful meals to be assertive? No.

Must you designate yourself as the planning committee on every future holiday? No.

Live your life as a quiet and passive person if you wish. These are not negative traits

However, if you’ve read this whole article, you definitely want to develop this skill.

Go out and take the opportunity to be more assertive by choosing to be bold more often.

If you struggle with anxiety as a whole, a book I can recommend is Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

I smashed through fear reading this book twice in college.

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