Learn to be Assertive

Many people find it difficult to express their feelings or needs in an honest, open manner. These difficulties can prove problematic when embarking on a new relationship or career, and can prevent you from communicating properly with family, friends, instructors and peers.

Without honest, open communication, you risk becoming disconnected from your own values and beliefs. It’s an easy pattern to fall into: by keeping your mouth shut and going with the flow, you’re far less likely to offend others. But in the long run, if you fail to assert yourself, you make it easier for others to take advantage of you.

Assertiveness refers to the means by which we can appropriately communicate our needs in an open, honest manner. To be assertive is to express who you are – while respecting yourself and valuing your own opinions and beliefs.

The purpose of this page is to explain what it means to be assertive, and how asserting yourself can prove beneficial to your relationships, your career and your future. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more information on booking an appointment with RRC’s Counselling Services, where you can assess your own levels of assertiveness – and the steps you can take to become more assertive.

Are You Assertive?

What does it mean to be assertive?
  • Standing up for your rights; not allowing yourself to be taken advantage of
  • Communicating what you want in a clear, respectful manner
  • Being honest and appropriate while expressing your feelings, opinions and needs
Is being assertive the same thing as being aggressive?
  • No. Aggression implies behaviour that violates the rights of others.
  • Aggressive behaviour tends to be harsh, argumentative, and demanding. It often involves sarcasm, name-calling, gossip and even physical violence.
What about you?
  • Do you ask for help when you need it?
  • Do you express anger and annoyance appropriately?
  • Do you ask questions when you’re confused?
  • Do you volunteer opinions when you think or feel differently from others?
  • Do you speak up in class fairly frequently?
  • Are you able to say “no” when you don’t want to do something?
  • Do you speak with a confident manner, conveying caring and strength?
  • Do you look at people when you’re talking to them?

If you answered “no” to some or most of these questions, you might benefit from learning how to be more assertive. (Scroll to the bottom of the page to learn how to make an appointment with RRC’s Counselling Services.)

Learn to be Assertive in a Positive Way

1. How to begin
  • Develop a value and belief system that allows you to be assertive
  • This means giving yourself permission to be angry, to say “no”, to ask for help, or to make mistakes
2. Learn Assertiveness Skills
  • Begin sentences with the phrase “I want” or “I feel”
  • Together with a counsellor, mentor or support group, develop skills to help you express your feelings more honestly
  • Explore self-help books on the topic
3. Use your best communication skills
  • Words are important, but body language is just as critical when expressing yourself assertively
  • Maintain direct eye contact, keep your posture open and relaxed, make sure your facial expression matches what you’re saying, and be aware of your tone of voice
4. Practice!
  • Assertiveness isn’t something that be learned overnight. Be patient with yourself, and practice on family and friends.
  • Over time, you’ll find it’s easier to communicate assertively, resulting in greater freedom to express yourself — and thus, to be yourself