Five Compelling Reasons To Become More Assertive

by Henrik Edberg


Image by *Zara (license).

Note: This is a guest post by Lori Jewett of Between Us Girls.

We’ve all had moments where we’ve failed to speak up for ourselves, said yes when we really wanted to say no, or allowed someone to walk all over our feelings without making a peep. No matter how self-assured, most of us wonder at one time or another if perhaps we couldn’t be just a bit more assertive. Do you wonder? Is assertiveness something that you need to work on? Let’s find out.

How Assertive Are You?

Look over the questions that follow.

As you work your way through the list, search for patterns.

You may find yourself feeling a twinge of guilt or embarrassment here and there.

If so, don’t worry. There are no absolutely right or wrong answers here.

There are only clues pointing to areas where your assertiveness might stand a little improvement.

  • How likely are you to express your opinion if it differs from that of the people you are talking with?
  • Do you speak up when someone cuts in front of you in line?
  • Do you try to blend in with the woodwork at meetings or parties?
  • When a salesperson is trying really hard to pitch you on a product you don’t want, is it hard to say no?
  • If a person has borrowed money and not paid you back, do you ask for it or just write it off?
  • Are you likely to try not to let things bother you but then fly off the handle and lash out in anger?
  • Is it hard to maintain eye contact when you are talking to people?
  • Do you yell at people and shout obscenities when you are pushed too far?
  • Are you able to refuse unreasonable requests from friends or colleagues?
  • Can you ask for small favors or help?
  • Do you clam up during an argument?
  • If someone is disturbing you during a movie, do you ask them to stop or do you stew about it instead?
  • If your meal in a restaurant is unsatisfactory, do you tell the waitress or just make the best of it?
  • If you feel that someone is misinformed, do you try to clear it up or do you just wait for a chance to change the subject?
  • If you buy something that doesn’t work properly, do you return it?

Did you notice anything about your responses? Chances are that certain types of items gave you pause. We all have situations where our resolve fails us. In fact, sometimes we deliberately choose to not speak out or to just let things slide. That’s okay too. The important thing is your ability to choose, that’s what assertiveness is all about. If remaining passive in a certain situation is your choice, it is in fact a form of assertive behavior.

The Benefits of Assertive Behavior

Becoming more assertive may be starting to sound like a good idea, but perhaps you’re not yet convinced. Right now you might be saying “I’m just not the assertive type”, “I’m too busy” or “If I behave like that what will everyone else think of me?” Put those worries aside for now because there are five very good reasons why becoming more assertive should be at the top of your to-do list:

1. Decreased anxiety.

Assertive people are much less anxious and tense in uncomfortable situations. When you become more comfortable expressing your opinions or saying no, awkward spots become less so. Those pesky conversations about politics and religion at the water-cooler become less anxiety-provoking. You can stop pretending to not be home when your mother-in-law calls. You might even cringe less when the boss asks for your opinion.

2. Freedom.

Being in control of your own life and deciding for yourself what to do and not to do, allows you a sense of freedom and control that a passive person just doesn’t have. There is no substitute for feeling that you make the decisions and that your life is truly your own.

3. Free time.

Helping out is wonderful and when people need you it is great to say yes whenever you can. But it’s also nice to sometimes be able to say no. It is amazing how much more time you can free up for the things that really matter to you when you can confidently say no to the things that don’t.

4. Improved relationships with others.

If you’ve lived your life passively up until now, make no mistake, the people around you will not be happy with your new found assertiveness. At least, not at first. People don’t like change, particularly if it inconveniences them. But rest assured that the negative response you may get from those closest to you will fade as they adjust their expectations. In the end, the relationships are usually better for it. The more passive of us may agree to everything and do whatever we are asked, but deep down we tend to resent it. This resentment seeps out in a myriad of ways and puts a strain on the very relationships saying yes was designed to preserve.

5. A better self-image.

Many avoid disagreeing with people or saying no because they think people will stop liking them, or because they think their own opinions are stupid or worthless. This attitude not only stems from, but helps perpetuate, low self-esteem. It is true that sometimes expressing an unpopular opinion or saying no to a request will make you a little less popular for the moment but, in the long run, assertive people usually earn the respect of others and as a result begin to have more respect for themselves.

So, are you convinced yet? You have to admit, assertiveness comes with a lot of perks. Like any new skill, learning to be more assertive takes time and practice, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Are you ready to become more assertive but you’re not sure how? Check out “How to Become More Assertive” at Between Us Girls.

Lori Jewett is a counselor who shares information on health, wellness and personal transformation on her Between Us Girls blog. If you enjoyed this article, read more and subscribe at: www.betweenusgirls.info

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{ 12 comments }

Jennifer March 14, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Excellent article. So timely too. I have been thinking a lot about assertiveness lately.

The link that goes to “how to become more assertive” doesn’t work. I couldn’t find it. Could you try that link again.

I have been thinking a lot about how it boost your confidence to be assertive and knowing how is the key. The key is stating your needs without offending others. It is so powerful! This motivated me to write a guest article on how to do just that.

Jennifer March 14, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Well, I just posted a comment and it didn’t go through….

This is an excellent article! And timely too, I have been thinking a lot about assertiveness lately and it’s benefits.

I tried to go to the link “How to Become More Assertive” and it doesn’t work. Could you please post that link again?

I have been thinking a lot about how assertiveness gives you power. It is very liberating as you said – that is, if done in the right way. The key is stating your needs without offending the other person. Learning HOW to do that is the key to making it good. This motivated me to write a guest article on just how to do that.

Kacper March 15, 2008 at 12:44 am

Interesting subject. Being assertive was my big problem in past. It is worth to practise.

One of my favourite experiment related to assertive behavior I run in past, is being very assertive at work for one week. This is short period of time, but you would be able to see the difference in your time management, productivity, effectiveness and so on.

Thank you Lori for inspiring post.

Kelly Rigby@SHE-POWER March 15, 2008 at 1:47 am

Great article, thanks.

I am assertive in most situations, but i think most people have areas where they try to blend in and keep the peace. The problem is not speaking out builds frustration and I think your behaviour ends up becoming negative as a result. If you don’t assert yourself when it’s needed and feels natural, you’ll bitch and get resentful and over time just won’t be as loving and happy a person.

Cheers
Kelly

Shilpan | successsoul.com March 15, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Lori,

Great post. I am very motivated and compassionate human being. Keeping those ideals in my consciousness, I often avoid saying things that I should have said. It simply stems from the fear of rejection but I start to realize that speaking what I think is the right course matters more than allowing others to form my self-esteem. I have article related to this in different way. My article discusses the pain we cumulate by passive behavior and how to get over it – http://www.successsoul.com/2008/03/14/3-steps-to-the-freedom-from-the-painful-past/

Please give me your opinion about my article if possible.

Regards,

Shilpan

Lori@betweenusgirls March 16, 2008 at 1:34 am

Jennifer,

Thanks…glad you liked the article. I’ve tried the link and it seems to work. If you’re still having a problem, try the Between Us Girls link at the top or bottom of the article and click on my “Emotional Growth and Development” category. You’ll find “How to Become More Assertive” listed there.

Also, you’re right, the key to assertiveness is stating your needs without offending others. As in many things, it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Good luck with your article!

Kacper,

I love your experiment idea! Trying out a behavior for a short time is a great way to test the waters and to see how it works for you. Keep up the good work.

Kelly,

We all have times when we choose to not rock the boat and that’s okay. We can choose to be assertive and sometimes, to purposely remain passive. It’s only when remaining passive leads to resentment and anger on your part that it becomes a problem.

I agree with your point, that if being passive is frustrating you, your resentment will leak out. Better to calmly state your position in the first place than to let things fester and explode later. Thanks for emphasizing that point, it’s an important one.

Shilpan,

Thanks for your sharing your personal experiences. I guess that we can be too polite sometimes at our own expense.

I look forward to reading about this topic from a different perspective and will definitely check out your article.

Grateful for the feedback,

Lori

Fearless Dreams March 17, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Clear, detailed post on assertiveness.

As you say, assertiveness is key to establishing healthy relationships.

Once we’re able to act with appropriate assertiveness toward others, the next step is to turn it inwards.

There are conflicting opinions in us, as well as outside of us.
And I may find myself at odds with some other part of myself.

Freedom there will also consist of asserting a chosen direction of action, instead of following along with a sudden emotion or desire when it goes against the things that are important to me in my quiet, thoughtful moments.

Joel

etavitom March 17, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Totally agree and think you’re right on. Thanks!!

Lori@betweenusgirls March 18, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Joel and etavitom,

Thanks for the positive responses!

Joel, you are so right and I myself needed to hear those exact words today. Doubts just came into my mind in the last few days as to my current chosen direction and I was/am so tempted to switch directions based on fear, envy etc.

We do need to not only stand up to others, but to our inner voices when they are not speaking in our own long-term interests. Thanks so much for reminding us (and me in particular!) of that.

gene March 22, 2008 at 8:16 am

Great post. I’ve read many books on assertiveness, and find that most seem to give somewhat vague advice such as “be more self-confident.”

But the one book on the subject of assertiveness that has changed my life by offering specific assertiveness techniques to learn is “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty” by Manuel J. Smith (published in 1985).

http://www.amazon.com/When-Say-No-Feel-Guilty/dp/0553263900

thanks!

Ann Rogers March 1, 2009 at 3:49 am

I just read the book R U Assertive? Stand Up Skills for Teenagers and found it very helpful. Others may enjoy it as well.

Ann Rogers March 1, 2009 at 3:50 am

You can read more at http://www.assertiveskills.com.

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