You can learn assertiveness skills at any stage of life and you can always improve them and gain more respect for yourself and others. In this post, I have gathered all of my assertiveness tips in one big list. I hope this summary will be useful for you and for your children and students.
If we create a society full of assertive people, we will not have conflicts and we will live with each other with respect, so pass this along to everyone you know.
Assertiveness Summary and Tips
- Assertiveness is the ability to express your needs, feelings and desires with confidence and without hurting others.
- Assertiveness is in the delicate space between what we need and want and what others need and want.
- We are not born assertive, so we need to learn assertiveness from someone. This person needs to be confident enough not to be threatened when we disagree with them. All parents face this challenge when their kids disagree.
- When people cannot express themselves freely, they become passive (avoidant) or aggressive.
- Assertiveness is in-between being aggressive and being passive.
- When parents use pressure, power, control, guilt, conditional love, threats and bribing, their kids will lash out or keep to themselves when they are around.
- Aggression hurts others, while passiveness hurts oneself.
- Assertiveness is not expressing yourself at all costs. Choose your battles! It is better to be wise than right, so use the serenity prayer in hard times.
- Assertiveness requires clear boundaries between you and others and your own best interest comes first!
- If you understand that whatever others say and think about you is none of your business, it will be easier to consider it only as their opinion and be assertive about it.
- When people expect you to justify your decision and it is none of their business, say in a firm, determined, unapologetic way that this is what you have decided to do and repeat it as long as you need in a calm voice. The calmer you are, the more confident you seem to the listener, and the quicker they will get the message.
- It is OK to believe in something and live by it, even if others do not. Live and let live! Your beliefs are valid even if you are the only one in the world that holds them!
- Judgment of others invites judgment of you. If you want an assertive relationship, do not share with others your judgment of them and if they judge you, do not feel compelled to accept their view.
- Missionaries are not believers. If you need to convert others to be part of a majority, it is a sign that your belief is not strong enough. If you find yourself convincing others of something, take a closer look at it.
- Being opinionated is not being assertive!
- Expressing your judgment in the name of honesty and self-expression is not assertiveness. It hurts!
- “My way or the highway” is not assertive. It is aggressive.
- Using guilt feelings to convince others to do what you want is aggressive and disrespectful of what they think.
- Parenting is out of the convincing formula. Parents must try to convince their children that their way is the best way to live. Some parents are aggressive about it and some are avoidant, but there is an assertive way: role modeling. When you demonstrate your beliefs to your kids, they will naturally do as you do.
- There is a difference between sharing and justifying. Sharing is an assertive expression, while justifying is a form of defense against resistance. If you are feeling pressure while you share your views, you may be justifying.
- An argument, a conflict, a heated conversation with blames and justification is the ultimate non-assertive event. Avoid exaggerating and generalizing words, like “always”, “only” and “never”, because there is no way back from them. It is never “never”, it is never “always” and it is never “only”. Just take them out of your vocabulary.
- Use “I” statements when you talk, but make sure the conversation is not all about you. Only 3-year-olds expect the whole world to function based on their desires, put themselves in the middle and view others are providers. There are two people in a relationship and they both have rights. Give the other person safe space in conversation.
- Do not label, swear or call the other names in conversation. It is aggressive.
- Use the words “please” and “thank you” as often as possible. These are the magic words and they show respect to the other person’s choice to do what you want or not.
- Use phrases like “I prefer”, “I would like”, “I will be very happy”, “This is my opinion” and “I think”. Stick to responsible statements and do not say bad things about others. These phrases separate your view from the other person and prevent you from appearing opinionated and aggressive.
- Avoid talking about “right” and “wrong”. You are not the Truth Lord!
- Avoid saying “you should”, “you have to” and “you must”. No one has to do anything just because you said so.
- “I feel that you” is not an expression of feeling. Feelings can be sad, happy, scared, upset, etc. Do not confuse your judgment and interpretation with feeling. Search for the feeling. For example, instead of “I feel that you don’t care about me”, use the assertive statement “I feel lonely”.
- It is OK to keep things private and this does not mean keeping them a secret.
- You can keep to yourself your judgment, parenting style, political views, religious views, food habits, sexual preferences, money philosophy, time management, beliefs that other disagree with, living arrangements, relationships, fashion style and your reasons for refusing an offer or an invitation. They are yours and if you feel comfortable with them, that is good enough.
- If you keep talking about yourself, your needs and your desires without judging and insulting the other, and the other is hurt that you do not fulfill their expectations, you are still assertive. Conflict of interest is part of life and the other person’s expectations are not your responsibility.
- Judgment, complaints, criticism, sarcasm, mockery and disappointment in others are not assertive. Do not force your needs and opinions on others, and keep your voice down as much as you can.
- Do not confuse between opinion and fact. Facts come with no emotional charge. Our interpretation does. “You came at 3pm” is a fact. “We agreed on 2:30” can be a misunderstanding and “Our meeting wasn’t important to you” is an unfounded accusation. Stick to the facts!
- Conditions in the communication, like “If you do that, then I won’t”, are aggressive, because both people are not on equal terms. One of them thinks he or she can set the rules and put pressure on the other to comply. Too many “If”s in the conversation are a bad sign.
- Threats are not assertive. If you threaten, you have no respect. If someone is threatening you, he or she has no respect for you. Threats can be a sign of bullying.
- Punishments are not assertive. Punishing the other person is a power play that shows no respect for the other person’s freedom of choice.
- Seeking revenge is a sign that your feel inferior and powerless. They say that if you want revenge, you should dig two holes: one for the other person and one for yourself.
- Value yourself. Care for yourself. It is your responsibility.
- Do not compare yourself to others. Remember that assertiveness requires separation between you and others. Having someone worse than you does not make you any better.
- The best way to be confident about yourself is to live up to your own standards. Develop good, strong standards and stick to them.
- The more you listen, the more you can think of assertive things to say. If you control the conversation, you are more likely aggressive.
- Put Mother Teresa’s poem, “Do It Anyway“, somewhere you can read every day until you believe every word of it.
- It is good to recognize our mistakes, but never say “sorry” just because someone said you should. Do not apologize just to please others and do not say, “I am terribly sorry”. You have a right to make mistakes.
- Avoid words that seek permission or approval, like “Can I”, “Will you let me”, “Is it OK with you”, “Would you mind if I”, “We’ll do what you want” or “If it’s that important to you, we’ll go with it”. Respect goes both ways.
- Stay away from flattery, because it sends a message of fear. It is OK to give others compliments, but there is a difference between compliments and flattery. Give compliments when you appreciate the other person, not when you are afraid of them or trying to manipulate them.
- Learn the 31 assertive sentences and use them as much as you can. Remember, no aggression, no justification, no judgment. If the other person does not get it, just repeat it calmly.
- Never say bad things about yourself, not even to make others feel better about themselves.
- When things are heated, it is assertive to ask for time off.
- Do not sacrifice what is important to you in order to please others.
- Do not make everything so important that you can never compromise. Behaving as if everything is important to you only sends a message of aggression.
- Do not assume you know what goes on in the other person’s mind. It will only make this person attack you or withdraw from the conversation.
- In communication, do not interrupt others while they are speaking. Let them finish and listen with respect.
- Demand equal expression of opinion and thoughts, interpretations and feelings. If you give up your own rights for a long time, do not expect others to give them to you.
Use these tips wisely and be assertive, because it is the only communication that works!
This post is part of the series Assetiveness: