Assertive behaviour focuses on standing up for yourself, with respect to your own goals as well as those of the other person. There are three stages of assertive action:

Passive ——— Assertive —— Aggressive

Passive behaviour means that you consider others before yourself too often, while aggressive behaviour is about when you only think of yourself and of not others. Assertiveness is the middle ground between these two extremes.

How can I be assertive?

Below are eight points that you can follow to be(come) more assertive.

1. Saying ‘no’ is enough

Saying ‘no’ is difficult for many people. We tend to feel the need to explain a rejection, for example: “You can’t borrow that book, because…” In most cases, an explanation is not necessary, a simple ‘no’ should suffice. But if people do ask why, answering “I prefer not to” is also a perfectly good explanation.

2. Confront

If you find it difficult to be assertive, you can use these techniques when practising, as practice makes perfect! The first step to becoming assertive is usually the most difficult. This is because you have to do something you would rather not do. Confrontation is important, it teaches you to be more assertive. Try saying ‘no’ to something small or to someone you know well and trust.

3. Relax

Being assertive can be scary, and you might feel tense. Try to relax in these moments, then the anxiety will automatically begin to decrease. You can do this by, for example, tensing your muscles first and then relaxing them again, or by taking a few deep breaths.

4. Use ‘I’ statements

If you want to indicate that you do not like another person’s behaviour, it is best to start a sentence with ‘I’. For example, “I can’t concentrate if you make all that noise.” Avoid phrases that start with ‘you’, such as, “You are always so loud”. If you do so, people tend to feel attacked more quickly.

5. Act assertively

Being assertive involves more than just the message you are trying to convey. The words you use are important, but the body language and tone of voice you use also play a role. Adopt an open and interested posture. You can do this by relaxing; try to relax your arms and legs as much as possible. Speak loudly and clearly and add variety to your voice, this will make you sound less monotone.

6. Prepare

In many cases, you can prepare for situations in which you need to be assertive. When it comes to situations during which you have trouble being assertive, such as when your colleague asks you to do something at work when you don’t actually have the time, for example. In these cases, you can practice your response and reaction at home beforehand. At least then you know you are prepared to react in the way that you want, making you feel stronger.

7. Observe

Are there people around you who are assertive? Look at the way they move and the words they use. Not only can you learn from them, but, more importantly, you will realise that it is possible to be successfully assertive. Observe the response of the person receiving the assertive message. How does that person react?

8. Don’t be too assertive

Some people learning to become more assertive tend to overstep a little in the beginning. Being assertive is only effective if you take your own interests and the interests of the other person into account. Try to express your opinion in a calm but clear manner. Show that you also understand where the other person is coming from.


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