Six Steps to Become Assertive (and Nice)

Note: This is a guest post by Jennifer of Principles for Peace.

Lori Jewett of Between Us Girls wrote an excellent guest post on the Positivity Blog titled 5 Compelling Reasons to be More Assertive. I thought I would follow up with that post on some specific steps, ways to become more assertive.

What is assertiveness?

First of all, I wanted to clear up any misconceptions about this word assertiveness and what it is. Often when people hear the word assertiveness they think of aggressiveness, being mean, pushy or bossy.

While some people are that way, that is actually not assertiveness. Assertiveness is healthy, good for everyone involved. Assertiveness is a way to get your needs met without offending others. It is so powerful, yet no one is hurt. That does not mean that people will not at first reject your new found assertiveness. However, if they do, they will eventually respect you, because real assertiveness involves both respect for yourself and the other person.

Before I get into the “how to” of assertiveness, let me first of all say that I used to be the least assertive person ever born. I was always afraid of rejection and wanted to keep the peace. Learning to be assertive gave me so much power and freedom – all at the expense of no one. It gave me all the benefits that Lori outlined in her great post.

Some of the material in this post I learned from a non profit program, I am who I am today because of Ron Wilkins (the pioneer of this program) and Gary Washer, an excellent SFT trainer. The rest of it I learned from experience along the way.

Six Never Fail Ways to be Assertive

1. As we have already stated, respect both yourself and the other person (or people) involved.

It all starts here. This is the foundation. Respect of everyone is necessary.

2. Always begin with a disarming statement.

Begin with any of the following statements. You may find a few others along the way, but these will always work. Choose any one of these depending on the situation and your personal preference. In some instances, you may use more than one, but usually one will suffice:

  • Compliment the other person. The compliment must be sincere. Saying “Thank you.” is considered a compliment, but of course is not the only way. Something like, “You really mean a lot to me” or “Thank you for your advice or “Thank you for your opinion” would be some examples of this.
  • Apologize. Apologize for any part of anything you may have done wrong or apologize that the person took offense to something you have done. Some examples would be “I’m sorry” or “I’m sorry. I really messed up this time” or “I’m really sorry you took offense at what I said (or did).” If you did wrong admit it. If not, you can still apologize without saying you did anything wrong (as in the last example). This is a great one to use for someone who takes things personally.
  • Agree with the person. “You’re right….” Is an example. Some other examples are “I can see why you would say that” or “That makes sense.”
  • Acknowledge their thoughts and/or feelings. Everybody wants to be understood. This one shows the person that you are talking to that they are understood. It will require you to hear more than just their words. It requires you to listen and note their body language. Are they flailing their arms around in disgust? You might say something like, “I can see that you are really frustrated” or “I can see that you are very upset about this.” Another one might be “I can see that this makes you sad.”
  • Ask them a question. Say something like, “Do you mind if I ask you a question.” Almost always they will say “yes.” Then, they have given you permission to ask/say what you need to ask or say. It’s harder for them to be offended if they have already given you permission to say something. You can often be blunt and get away with it when you first ask permission with a question. Be nice though. :) This is often a good way to help someone see the “light” or see things from a different perspective.

3. Once you use a disarming statement, you then can state your needs – whatever they may be.

A full assertive example might be. “Thank you for inviting me. I won’t be able to come this time.” If they ask you why you can not come you could say, “I really appreciate the invitation, but I’m very busy tonight – maybe another time.” You have complimented them, stated your needs and not backed down to them.

4. Recognize that just because you state your needs that does not always mean you will always get your needs met.

However, if you use a disarming statement you have a much greater chance of getting what you want. Even if you don’t get what you want it still feels good to be able to say what you need without offending anyone.

5. Practice.

Practice makes perfect.

Recognize that it may be scary at first and that it probably won’t be perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Simply resolve to learn from each attempt how to do it better next time.

Becoming assertive may be one of the hardest things you have ever done (it was for me), but learning it and mastering it is one of the most rewarding.

Even though I’m still working on mastering it, I now find it fun to come up with an effective assertive statement.

6. Celebrate each success.

Give yourself a pat on the back for each time you are assertive. Each attempt will boost your confidence.

One of best things about assertiveness is that when you master it, you are often able to be assertive in such a way that you leave people speechless with their jaws dropped. There is nothing left for them to say. It feels so good to do this!

Jennifer loves helping people achieve peace, happiness and success in their lives and writes regularly in her blog If you found this article helpful consider subscribing to Jennifer’s blog via your reader or if you prefer email subscription you may fill in the form at her site. One of Jennifer’s best posts is Steps Needed to Win through Adversity.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • christine

    hello Henrik

    a friend of mind gave the adress of your blog …what a chance…I feel really having found U and your writing ! it’s in my favorite page right now…as I my spirit was down for the last two days(divorce,unemplyement,etc…) It’s a great honnor ,and boosting me to read U.
    thanks. I knwow most of what you’re saying for having read and practise a positive communication “training” programm last year , but it’s good to read it over and over again, and try to practise daily.

  • A fantastic and informative post.

  • meoff jack

    Last tip on # 2, ask them question- do you mind if I ask u a question.. almost everytime they will respond yes? Well then?~