Strategies for Becoming More Assertive

1. Watch how you say things:

It’s not just the words; it’s also how you say them. While the words may be wonderfully assertive, the manner in which you deliver your message, and your body language that you use, may be saying something else. ask yourself:

  • am I speaking in a loud, clear voice?
  • am I mumbling when I’m talking, or garbling my words?
  • am I looking at the person I’m talking to?
  • am I fidgeting while I’m talking?
  • am I shouting or yelling?
  • is my tone sarcastic and demeaning?

The next time you get an opportunity to work on your assertiveness, pay attention to any or all of the above. When you’re acting assertively, your non-verbal behavior is congruent with your message. All of you is saying the same thing.

2. Say “No” (oh, so nicely)

Many times a simple and direct “No” or other assertive response is totally appropriate and should be your option of choice. You need no further explanation or discussion. However, there are times when straight assertion is a little cold and may be taken as somewhat off-putting. Some tact and packaging may be required.

Here are some examples:

Situation: People sitting next to you in a theater are talking during the movie.

Direct Assertion: Would you please be quiet?

Packaged Assertion: Guys, keep it down. I can’t hear anything.

Situation: A co-worker asks you for help.

Direct Assertion: No, I can’t do it.

Packaged Assertion: I’d like to help, but I really can’t now.

Situation: You are interrupted while you’re talking.

Direct Assertion: Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking.

Packaged Assertion: Hang on. I’m not finished yet.

Your turn! Fill in the blank with your own examples, then try it out in role-play with a friend or therapist. Use the message board to share your examples with others!


Direct Assertion:

Packaged Assertion:


3. Have a dress rehersal

Interpersonal conflict and unnecessary stress most often results when we are caught off guard. Take some time to plan what you would like to say to the other person. Sometimes being caught unprepared is unavoidable. Many times, however, you can see it coming and have a chance to ready yourself for the interaction. Do some role-playing. Imagine what you might say and also imagine how the other person might respond. But go further than this. Also imagine that the other person becomes hostile and difficult. See yourself coping with this situation. Imagine yourself being your “ideal self”–calm, assertive, and in control. Play with different scenarios until you feel you are ready for just about anything.

Following are some scenarios to mentally rehearse:

  • You are quite unhappy about some things a coworker has been doing lately and you would like to make it clear that you would like it to stop.
  • You know that a friend is going to ask you for a favor, one you definitely do not want to grant.
  • You have to ask someone to do something that you know is going to make her angry.

Practice may or may not make perfect, but it certainly will reduce your stress.

Next time, I will write a final installment for coping with difficult people & challenging situations. Use the message board, or write me privately, to share your assertiveness road-blocks. I will custom-tailor my response to the submissions. (Please note: I may choose to use quotes from my readers–with your permission, of course!–but your names/identifying information will not be disclosed in the post).


One Comment on “Strategies for Becoming More Assertive”

  1. Jeffrey Hornstein says:

    Thanks Noah! Love getting these!

Share your reactions, experiences & questions:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s