Assertiveness Simplified

Assertiveness – what exactly is it? Getting your own way? Saying how you feel? Being upfront and honest? Telling it how it is? Well, many people get hung up and confused about what exactly assertiveness is and how you act in an assertive manner.


If you research dictionary definitions, you’ll find the following: “confident and forceful behaviour.” or “behaving confidently and able to say in a direct way what you want or believe”, and “Someone who is assertive states their needs and opinions clearly, so that people take notice”, plus many more definitions. One simple way we at STL define assertiveness, is:

“Behaviour that involves standing up for your own rights, expressing your needs, wants, opinions, feelings and beliefs in a direct, honest way…without violating another person’s rights.”

Another great way, when you want to assert yourself is to do the following: show respect to yourself, then say or do what you need to, and then importantly – show the same respect to the other person(s). As an example, if you make excuses for yourself by saying “Sorry to ask and maybe I shouldn’t…” then this is not exactly showing yourself much self-respect – this is passive/submissive behaviour. Likewise saying for example, “I don’t care what you think – I feel this!” is showing the other involved little to no respect and is aggressive.

If you sometimes lack the confidence to act with assertiveness then these tips can be a big help:

  • Visualise yourself where you want to be
  • Do things that scare you – frequently
  • Question your inner critic
  • Focus on what you have achieved (rather than haven’t)
  • Help others
  • Don’t see others as better than you, just different
  • Be able to say no and not feel guilty

Other considerations for ensuring you remain assertive are:

  • Use short, concise sentences
  • Don’t use lots of excuses
  • Think about what you will say before you say it
  • Make sure your body language supports your position
  • Use the present tense; deal with what exists today
  • Be positive – rather than affirming what you do not want
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Act “as if” – give yourself permission to believe the idea is true right now


We all have rights at work, in addition to our legal working rights, and these are what is reasonable for us to expect in our relationships and in our communications with others. In the workplace as we interact with colleagues, superiors, and clients, we have a right to feel comfortable and secure in our relationships and communications. As well as this, we have a right to be treated fairly and respectfully. We should be able to express our opinions honestly without reprimand, whether we agree with others’ views or not, and seek assistance when needed. However, we should also take responsibility for our behaviour and mistakes, keep in mind that everyone is human, and no-one is perfect.

Assertive people feel connected to other people. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Feeling in control of themselves, they speak in calm and clear tones, are good listeners, and maintain good eye contact. They create a respectful environment for others, and do not allow others to abuse or manipulate them.