Assertive behavior is focussed on standing up for yourself, with respect for one’s own goals and the goals of the other. There are three stages of assertive behavior:

Sub-assertive  ———  Assertive  ———  Aggressive

Sub-assertive behavior means that you take too much account of others and too little with yourself. Aggressive behavior means that you only take yourself into account and too little of others. Assertiveness lies in the middle of these two extremes.You focus on standing up for yourself, with respect for the other.

How can you become more assertive?
1. Saying ‘No’ is already sufficient
Saying no is a difficult thing to do for many people. We tend to explain our rejection, for example: “You can not borrow that book, because …” But in most cases you do not even have to give an explanation! When people ask why you refused, you can just answer with: “I prefer not to.”

2. Attack the confrontation
If you find it difficult to be assertive, you can change this by practicing, because practice makes perfect. The first step to become more assertive, is usually the most difficult step. This is because you have to do something that you would rather not do. When you face the confrontation you will learn to be more assertive. Try starting with saying no to something small, or to someone you know very well and trust.

3. Relax
Being assertive can be scary, you may experience some tension. You should try to relax when you feel this way, you will experience that the fear will decrease. You can do this by, for example, tightening your muscles first and then relaxing them again or taking a few deep breaths.

4. Use “I” messages
If you want to indicate that you do not like the behavior of the other person, you can best start the sentence with an ‘I’. For example: “I can not concentrate if you make so much noise.” Avoid sentences with words that start with ‘you’, such as: ‘You are always so noisy’. In this way, people are more likely to feel attacked.

5.Be assertive
The message that you transfer to the other person is important, but your attitude and the way you use your voice are also key factors of assertive behavior. Your attitude should be accessible and approachable. You achieve such attitude by relaxing; also try to relax your arms and legs as much as possible. When it comes to your voice, try to speak loud and clear. Also try to apply variation in the sound of your voice.

6. Prepare yourself
In many cases you can prepare assertive behavior. Think, for example, of situations in which you have difficulty asserting yourself. For example when your colleague asks you to do things at work where you do not have the time for. In this case you can practice at home for an appropriate response. Then you will know that you have it in you to react appropriately, so that you can be more confident about yourself.

 7. Observe
Are there people around you who are assertive? Observe them. Look at the way they move and which words they use. In this way you know how to act in an assertive way and you will know that it is possible to be assertive. It is also important to observe the reaction of the person who receives the assertive message. How does that person respond to this?

8. Do not be too assertive
Some people who want to be more assertive are taking it too far in the beginning. Behavior is only assertive if you have an eye for your own interests as well as the interests of the other person. Try to give your opinion in a calm but clear way. It should be clear that you respect the other person.

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