Education and Early Childhood Development

What Can I Do if I Want to be More Assertive?

Being assertive means that you respect yourself and others equally and that you portray this in the way you communicate and respond to other people. Being assertive means that you are able to “stand up” for yourself and others. When you are assertive, you are better able to stand up to a bully and you are better able to say no to peer pressure.

There are three response styles:

  • passive
  • aggressive
  • assertive

A passive response is to behave as if other people's rights and opinions are more important than your own.
An aggressive response is to behave as if your rights and opinions are more important than those of other people.
An assertive response is to respect yourself and others equally.
The thoughts we each have about ourselves can help or hinder us. Sometimes we may put ourselves down saying "no one will like me", "I am hopeless at this" etc. We can change this and instead say helpful things about ourselves, like "I have the right to ask for what I want", "I did OK", "It wasn't perfect, but it was OK".

Sometimes we may describe ourselves as "timid', "shy", "pushy" or "bossy". By being assertive, we can let others know what we want and how we feel, without being “pushy” or “bossy”, and still not be too shy or afraid to speak up.
Being assertive is always important. It is especially important if:

  1. you are being bullied;
  2. your friend is being bullied;
  3. you are being pressured to do something you don't want to do.

How To Be Assertive

  1. Use “I” messages
    • “I” messages let you say what you think and how you feel without putting down or attacking the other person.
    • When you are hurt, upset, or angry, an “I” message can help
    • An “I” message has three basic parts:
      1. “I feel…”
        Tell how you feel. Follow “I feel…” with a feeling word: “I feel disappointed…”
      2. “…when…”
        Tell what the other person did or said that caused you to feel that way. “I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute.”
      3. “I want…”
        Tell what you want to happen: “I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute. I want you to let me know earlier if you can't make it.”
    • An “I” message can include a fourth part telling why you feel as you do about what happened
      1. a “because” section:
        “I feel disappointed when you cancel our plans at the last minute, because then I'm left on my own and it's too late to plan something else. I want you to let me know earlier if you can't make it.”
  2. Be clear about what you want
    • Know what you want to say and practise it.
    • Make your request short. (“That is mine. I want you to give it back”)
  3. Be a Broken Record
    • A broken record repeats the same thing over and over. Know what you want to say and stick to it: “That is my pencil and I want it back”.
    • It is possible to respond kindly first before repeating the statement: “I am sorry you have no pencil but that is my pencil and I want it back”. (A possible broken record response to being teased: - “I am sorry, I didn't hear you.”)
  4. Say No
    • If you are not sure if you want to do something, you can say “I don't know. I need more time or more information.”
    • If you know your answer is no, then say ‘no'. Try not to be indecisive. Try not to be persuaded to do what you don't want to do.
    • You can offer an alternative: “No, I don't want to go to the party. Let's go to a movie instead.”
  5. Keep good eye contact.
    • Practise walking tall in front of a mirror.
    • Practise keeping eye contact with people.
 
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