Being assertive is a matter of practicing certain communication skills and having the right inner attitude. Some people are naturally more skilful when it comes to being assertive. Others need more practice. But everyone can improve. Start by considering which communication style (assertive, passive, or aggressive) comes closest to yours. Then decide whether you need to work on being less passive, less aggressive, or simply need to build on your naturally assertive style. Below are some tips on how to change your style into a more assertive manner.
To work on being less passive and more assertive:
- Pay attention to what you think, feel, want, and prefer. You need to be aware of these things before you can communicate them to others.
- Notice if you say “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” or “it doesn’t matter” when someone asks what you want. Stop yourself. Practice saying what you’d prefer, especially on things that hardly matter. For example, if someone asks, “Would you like green or red?” you can say, “I’d prefer the green one — thanks.”
- Practice asking for things. For example: “Can you please pass me a spoon?” “I need a pen — does anyone have an extra?” “Can you save me a seat?” This builds your skills and confidence for when you need to ask for something more important.
- Give your opinion. Say whether or not you liked a movie you saw and why.
- Practice using “I” statements such as: “I’d like…” “I prefer…” or “I feel…”
- Find a role model who’s good at being assertive — not too passive and not too aggressive. See if you can imitate that person’s best qualities.
- Remind yourself that your ideas and opinions are as important as everyone else’s. Knowing this helps you be assertive. Assertiveness starts with an inner attitude of valuing yourself as much as you value others.
To work on being less aggressive and more assertive:
- Try letting others speak first.
- Notice if you interrupt. Catch yourself, and say: “Oh, sorry — go ahead!” and let the other person finish.
- Ask someone else’s opinion, then listen to the answer.
- When you disagree, try to say so without putting down the other person’s point of view. For example, instead of saying: “That’s a stupid idea,” try: “I don’t really like that idea.” Or instead of saying: “He’s such a jerk,” try: “I think he’s insensitive.”