Assertiveness is a way of expressing your feelings, asking for what you want and saying “no” if you don’t want.

Having a belief that you have a right to ask for what you want and being conscious of your basic human rights is apart of being assertive. It is about giving yourself the same respect you would give someone else. It is about standing up for your rights without feeing guilty or apologizing. It is about getting your needs met while preserving the dignity of others. Instead of demanding or commanding your would request. “I hope my boss gives the assignment to me.”

Nonverbal tips:

  • Look directly at the person when addressing them, looking down conveys that you are not sure and staring can put the other person on defense.
  • Maintain an open posture by not crossing your arms and face the person directly.
  • Do not back off or move away from the person as you are indicating you are unsure.
  • Stay calm. A calm demeanor carries more weight than an angry outburst.

It might be helpful to write out what you want to say on paper ahead of time or role play it with someone prior. In order to do this these steps below can help you.

-think of your rights

-set time to discuss what you want to discuss (mutually agreed on)

-address the main person involved and the consequences for you (people are not mind readers)

-express your feelings about the situation

-make a request for change

-tell the person the consequences of gaining or not gaining their co-operation.

It is important to own your reactions and your feelings. This can be communicated by using “I” statements. You are taking responsibility for your feelings and not putting the person you are talking to on defense. “I feel angry when you don’t listen to me.”


  • Keep your request simple
  • Avoid asking for more than one thing
  • Be specific
  • Use “I” statements
  • Object to behaviors not personalities
  • Don’t apologize and repeat your statement if you are feeling criticized
  • Make requests not demands
  • State consequences of gaining or not gaining cooperation

Learning to say “no”

This is an important aspect of assertiveness to requests that you do not want. This is about setting limits for you and your own needs. You can also do this without feeling guilty. If you do not care about the relationship, just say, “No thank you” in a firm and polite manner. If they persist just respect your statement calmly without apologizing.

-look the person in the eyes

-speak in an assertive tone, not to quiet

-assert your position: “I said no thank you.”

More Tips:

  • Acknowledge the other persons request by repeating it
  • Explain your reasons for declining
  • Say no
  • If appropriate, suggest an alternative proposal where both your and the others persons needs will be met

Take your time and don’t over apologize when saying “no”. It is helpful to be specific and assertive. If you make an offer, be sure it comes out of genuineness rather then guilt.

Referenced by: The Anxiety and Phobia workbook by Edmund Bourne

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