9 Proven Tips to Be More Assertive in Life

5 minutes

“My dad has high expectations from me, but my interests are different. I just cannot hurt him and at the same time, I feel suffocated. I get so angry the moment I see my room in a mess as I enter, my room-mate has no aesthetic sense. We often fight over this issue but nothing changes.”

“It is so humiliating when this girl tries to put me down and makes fun of me in front of others. It is taking away my peace of mind, I don’t know how to deal with her as she is so popular at the campus.”

“I have been trying to ask this girl out for a date since very long but I don’t know why I could never succeed.”

Most of us can easily relate to one or more of the above statements. All such inter-personal difficulties can be handled with assertiveness in behavior and communication. Communication is the exchange of ideas, concepts or experiences.

Most interpersonal problems arise due to  ineffective communication. Two most important aspects of communication are to listen (to the content and the feelings) and to express effectively.

We often tend to be non-assertive due to maladaptive conditioning and suppressing one’s needs and feelings can be disastrous to one’s mental health.

Assertiveness is a skill, whereby one can effectively and tactfully express one’s feelings, preferences, opinions, and needs, without hurting or violating rights of others.

Assertiveness involves the following behaviors:

  • Asking for favors, making requests, speaking up against someone violating your rights (as a human being).
  • Initiate, proceed and terminate conversations comfortably.
  • Share feelings, opinions, and experiences with others, and asking questions when in doubt.
  • Effectively dealing with minor frustrations immediately rather than bottling up intense anger and resentment.
  • Ability to express negative emotions like complaints, disagreements or criticism.
  • Politely turning down requests when your priorities need attention or if they are against your value system.
  • Ability to show positive emotions like happiness and love, giving as well as receiving compliments.

With most people assertiveness is situation specific – we are assertive in some situations but not in others. Therefore, we need to recognize and analyze situations in our lives, where we have not been assertive and we may have been aggressive or submissive.

We need to recognize the harm done by unassertiveness – It is self-defeating. We often end up hiding our true feelings by being dishonest or resorting to subtle manipulations, we allow others to dominate us, and we go on maintaining relationships that are domineering. On the other hand, assertiveness leads to happiness and self-enhancement.

Strong negative emotions create a barrier in the process of communication. The content is overshadowed by the emotions and rational thinking is blocked.

Instead of understanding, a person feels hurt and becomes defensive to protect his/her self-esteem/respect, thus ends up reacting aggressively. It often discourages the person to respond positively in future as well. The whole purpose of communication goes haywire.

Speaking your mind at the right time, to the right person, with the right content and in the right way can ensure maximum impact of your words.

The right way refers to putting your point firmly and politely without getting anxious. It requires a high emotional intelligence – an ability to monitor and manage one’s own, as well as other’s emotions.

  1. Relax your mind on a daily basis to stay calm.
  2. Reflect on your priorities — do you want to be honest or you just want to be liked by everyone?
  3. Take time to think before you act (e.g. I need time to think about this…can we discuss this later?)
  4. Focus on your goals and not on your resentment of the other person. Be specific about the changes you seek, be sure they are reasonable and be willing to make changes yourself as well.
  5. Be sure of yourself while firmly putting your point across, without getting emotionally disturbed.
  6. Focus on the specific behavior and not on the other person’s apparent motives.
  7. Be objective; describe the situation as you see it, without raking up problems in the past or making general accusations ( e.g. you are always…)
  8. Take responsibility for your feelings, describe them using “I” statements. Do not blame the other person for the way you feel.
  9. Rehearse and practice diligently to develop the skill.

Do you often find it hard to put your points across and stand up for your points? Don’t worry, we are here to help. Talk to a YourDOST expert and get tips & guidance on how to be more assertive – both in personal and professional spheres

Veena Bose

Veena Bose has 7+ years of experience as a counselor in KK college, Mumbai. She has also served Indian Army as an MNS officer for 5+ years. She is Masters in Clinical Psychology and is also trained in Yoga.