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4 Steps on How to Be Assertive This Year

Happy 2020, readers! Not only are we entering a new year, but we are entering a new decade. Reflect for a moment and envision what you want this next chapter of your life to look like. If you’ve struggled with finding your voice and confidently speaking your mind in the past, you may be looking to become more assertive. 

“But wait,” you say, “What if I don’t have a very dominant or aggressive personality?” No problem! The word “assertive” gets a bad rep because it often gets mixed up with the above terms, but the truth is, you don’t need to be dominant or aggressive to be assertive. In fact, being assertive is the opposite of bulldozing others’ opinions: You’re not shutting down anyone’s right to express themselves, hurting or humiliating them, or pushing your selfish demands. Being assertive means respecting yourself and others by clearly and honestly stating your position or your needs. Let me walk you through it! In today’s blog, I’m sharing 4 easy steps on how to be assertive.

Step #1: Describe the situation, as you see it, in factual and neutral terms.

Start with something like “I noticed that …” or “it appears that …”. We do this to acknowledge right away that we’re owning our observations, and that we’re open-minded and aware that others may see the situation differently. Stick to neutral/factual terms and try to keep it brief. Even if you do feel strongly about your opinion, now isn’t the time to say so. Accusations coming right out of the gate tend to make people defensive and unwilling to listen. 

Step #2: Express your feelings.

The key here is to stick to “I” and “me” statements. You can only speak to how you feel about the situation, not to what the other person’s intentions are. Even if you’re pretty sure the other person is resisting you on purpose, making “you” statements like “you’re being rude” or “you don’t respect me” tends to make people defensive or dismissive. That won’t get you very far.

Step #3: Assert your belief, need, or want.

OK, this is where you do the actual asserting! Keep it brief and direct. Resist the urge to justify yourself or minimize the importance/urgency of your request by avoiding words and phrases like “maybe,” “I only ask because,” and “if it’s at all possible.” Most of all, don’t say “sorry.” If your request is reasonable, there is no reason to apologize. I understand that this part can be intimidating and uncomfortable, but to be effective at asserting yourself, you must carry through and express what you need. If the only thing you express is that the current situation sucks, then the other person will feel that you’re berating them. Making a request gives you both something productive to work towards. Don’t just drop hints either! People are not mind-readers, so make a specific, actionable request.

Step #4: Reinforce the other person.

This last step is very important. It’s the cherry on top; the “thank-you-in-advance.” It reminds the other person that you’re not trying to pick a fight or cause drama, and that you care about maintaining the relationship. People enjoy being acknowledged and appreciated, so if you can do this in advance, they are more likely to comply with your request. Not to mention that, when you’ve ended on such a gracious note, it would be hard for them to derail the conversation by becoming defensive.

There you have it! I hope these steps will help 2020 be the year of speaking your mind, expressing yourself confidently, and getting what you want.

If you would like more information or to schedule an appointment with AWCC, please contact us at 832-421-8714.

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Maigen Pham

Maigen Pham is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern and Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate at Amy Wine Counseling Center in Cypress, TX. She specializes in relationship-related issues and works with adolescents, adults, and couples.
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