How To Be Assertive

Unless you have grown up with healthy role modelling around assertiveness, it is likely this is something you struggle with. I have learnt to be assertive slowly. It was not role modelled for me. I still flip into aggressive (my default) sometimes and usually find the outcome is defensiveness. When I manage to be assertive, clear and calm the outcome is ALWAYS better.

The first step in being assertive is to know our needs. If we are uncertain about our needs, we will find others are too. We will find it difficult to communicate our needs, and when we do, we will not be taken seriously as our needs are constantly changing. This can lead to us feeling disheartened and disrespected.

For example:

Your partner wants you to lend him money. You say no but find yourself worrying when he becomes more withdrawn than usual. Without a conversation, you change your mind and lend him the money.

A few weeks later he has still not repaid you the money he borrowed, and he asks to borrow money again. You find yourself feeling taken advantage of start to feel angry towards your boyfriend.

Being assertive in this conversation might sound like:

“We had an agreement that you would repay the amount you borrowed last time. You have not repaid me yet. I feel uncomfortable lending you more money without first being repaid. I value our relationship and I don’t want money to come between us. I am wondering how we can both get our needs met in this difficult situation?”

Notice in this interaction that you have identified your need to be repaid before lending more. You have been clear in your communication. You have invited him closer to problem solve with you, opening you both to collaboration.

If assertiveness is something you struggle with, know it CAN be learnt. It takes courage and practice and is an essential part of your healing journey.

How to be Assertive

References: Alberti, R., & Emmons, M. (2017). Your perfect right: Assertiveness and equality in your life and relationships, 10th ed. Oakland, CA: Impact Publishers. 

Psychology today – Seth Gillihan