Assertiveness is a character trait that helps you communicate confidently and effectively.
It helps people understand exactly where you stand and what your boundaries are in conversations. While being assertive comes naturally to some people, it can be a struggle for others.
People with social anxiety or low self-esteem often struggle with being assertive. However, assertiveness can be learned. Learn how to be more assertive, why it’s essential, and how it can benefit you in your day-to-day life.
Ways to Be More Assertive
If you’ve struggled with asserting yourself, the good news is there are many ways to change this. Being assertive is a character trait that can be learned and honed. These are some ways you can do that.
Learn to say no
One of the top character traits of non-assertive people is that they often struggle with saying no, even when their boundaries are breached. Learning to say no in a respectful but firm way helps to communicate and maintain your boundaries with people.
When saying no, remember that an explanation isn’t always required. Simply saying, “No, I don’t have the capacity to fulfill that request,” or “No, I can’t make time for that right now” suffices. Some research shows that simply saying no can increase your assertiveness and improve your mental health.2
Practice makes perfect
Assertiveness is a skill that can benefit you in all communications, even with friends, parents, or partners. If you are learning to be more assertive for a particular reason, let’s say to be more recognized at work, you should practice skills that hone assertiveness all the time, even when you are not at work.
Keep a journal
A journal gives you more insight into how you think and behave. Many non-assertive people don’t even realize that they are not assertive. They experience frustrations communicating their wants and needs but don’t realize why. When journaling, you should seek to answer questions such as:
- Do I have difficulty speaking to people in superior positions?
- Am I able to communicate displeasure or dissatisfaction?
- Do people hear me when I speak and respond accordingly?
Speak to a professional
In certain instances, there might be an underlying reason for your passiveness. This could either be anxiety, fear, or a mental health condition. A qualified psychologist or therapist can help you discover the root cause and equip you with the tools to manage it.
Start small but be consistent
Being assertive in your day-to-day life will get you on your way to becoming a naturally assertive person. The prospect of suddenly becoming an outspoken person can be daunting so start small. The next time your barista gets your coffee order wrong, speak up.
Communicate inconveniences you’d typically overlook in a polite but firm manner. Do this consistently and watch yourself become naturally assertive.
Let your body speak
Body language is a universal language. You can communicate a lot of unspoken words with your body. When speaking, stand upright with your head held high and maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to in order to communicate confidence and self-assuredness.
Characteristics of Assertive People
To further understand what it means to be assertive, here are some character traits of assertive people and how they may differ from passive people. These character traits will help you understand how assertive people think and what behaviors make them assertive. Note that it is possible to possess a variety of traits in both categories.
- Know when to say no and have no problems with it
- Know what they want and communicate it
- Effectively advocate for themselves when the need arises
- Don’t always seek to please even when it’s detrimental
- Are self-confident and have high self esteems
- Take on responsibility
- Struggle with saying the word no
- Just go with the flow even when it’s inconvenient
- Struggle to advocate for themselves
- Can be people, pleasers, even when it’s detrimental
- May have low-self esteem and struggle with self-confidence.
- Avoid responsibility
Benefits of Being More Assertive
Being more assertive is key to getting the things you want. It helps you effectively communicate your needs, wants, and boundaries to others. For instance, at a job interview, being assertive can make all the difference when negotiating your dream salary. Here are some other benefits of being more assertive:
- Boost your self-confidence: Assertiveness is a great self-esteem booster. Being able to communicate with anyone confidently and directly leaves you feeling like you can take on the world.
- Attracts respect from others: Being transparent and firm in your communication with other people causes you to earn their respect. Even in situations where you are on opposing sides, they’ll respect your strong stance on your beliefs.
- Helps you communicate better: Assertiveness is one of the most essential communication skills you need. Approaching any conversation confidently and assertively helps you get your points across quickly and succinctly.
- It minimizes stress: A great deal of emotional stress is born from poor communication.3 Being able to deal with issues and effectively communicate your needs and wants when they arise helps to plug gaps in communication, whether at work, at home, or in your relationship. In a 2016 study, researchers found that assertiveness training can decrease stress, depression, and anxiety levels.4
Potential Pitfalls of Being Less Assertive
Non-assertive people often have a host of reasons for being passive. It could be because of fear of confrontation or a lack of self-confidence. However, being passive has potential pitfalls that could come in the way of you and your goals. Here are a few disadvantages non-assertive people face:
- Losing out on potential opportunities: You lose out on a hundred percent of opportunities you don’t speak up for. This could be as trivial as a free flight upgrade or as necessary as a promotion at work.
- Increased stress levels: People who are not assertive are more likely to experience increased stress levels. This is because they have poor communication skills and often stretch themselves thin trying to be people-pleasers.
- Lowered self-esteem: Many non-assertive people struggle with low-self esteem. However, both traits feed into each other. Being non-assertive can serve to fuel your low self-esteem.
If you’ve spent your whole life being a non-assertive person, you should know that becoming an assertive person might not happen overnight. You’ll need to practice skills to make you more assertive consistently, and while that could feel uncomfortable or foreign at first, it’ll quickly become second nature with time.
Even when you are just starting, you’ll soon begin to see the benefits of being an assertive person, motivating you to keep at it. It’s essential not to conflate being assertive with being confrontational. Assertiveness also means listening to and respecting the person you are communicating with.