Being Assertive: Gaining Confidence, Speaking Up


Have you ever wished that you had just a tab bit more confidence? Perhaps you were in a situation where someone was being belittled or spoken to rudely, and you wanted to speak up, but you just didn’t feel that you could. Perhaps that person was you.

Developing assertiveness is an interpersonal skill that is difficult for people who are naturally passive or quiet. Nevertheless  learning to be assertive is of the utmost importance if you want to stand up for yourself, stand up for others, or stand up for what you feel is right.

What is Assertiveness?

Being assertive_raising hand among crowd

Assertiveness isn’t aggressiveness, though many people confuse the two terms.

According to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Assertiveness is the ability to express yourself openly and honestly while also reflecting a genuine concern for others.”

When you are assertive, you know yourself — your goals, your values, and your beliefs — and you can stand up for them, even when the situation is difficult.

It is assertiveness that allows you to stand up during a conversation and say, “Excuse me, but what I said was I don’t think that is a good idea.”

When you are assertive, you don’t push your way into a conversation or dominate all talk or proceedings. When you are assertive, you just have the ability to say what you need to say, and you aren’t scared away by shyness.

What Are Examples of Exerting Assertiveness in Everyday Life?

Assertiveness is often associated with speaking, but you don’t have to be communicating through speech to be assertive.

Here are a few examples of assertiveness that take place both in the medium of speech and in other mediums.

  • You are in a business meeting with several of your loud, extroverted co-workers. The chair of the committee has asked whether purchasing more land is a good idea. You are the only one of your co-workers who thinks the idea is poor but you have good data to back up your hesitation. You think this decision could seriously hurt the company. The other co-workers all loudly agree and want to move the conversation to discussing what piece of land to purchase. If you are assertive, you have the ability to ask for a moment to articulate your position.
  • You have received a text in which a client has asked you to do something you feel is unethical. Instead of simply doing it, you craft a carefully-worded, polite message back that explains your reasons for not agreeing to complete the task.
  • You notice someone posting rude comments about another person on Facebook. You post a comment stating that you feel this could hurt the other person and that you don’t support the action.


How Can I Be More Assertive?

If you are a naturally shy or introverted person, becoming assertive can be very difficult. However, one of the primary reasons why people are not assertive has nothing to do with whether or not they are shy. Many people lack assertiveness because they do not know themselves, their values, and their beliefs.

The first step to developing your assertiveness is to get to know yourself and what you wish to stand for.

The second way to develop your assertiveness skills is to learn how to communicate with assertiveness.

According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Counseling Center, communicating with assertiveness requires that you to:

  1. Be as specific and clear about what you are saying as possible
  2. State your message as your opinion
  3. Listen to the other person’s opinion
  4. Respond politely and honestly

Learning to Say No 

Do you feel you frequently end up doing things that are not beneficial to you but you somehow were convinced by others to do them?

Watch this video to learn how to say “No”, when you need to.

Being assertive can help you stand up for yourself or others, but it takes time to develop. When you set your mind to being more assertive, however, you will be surprised how quickly you are able to change.

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2 Responses to “Being Assertive: Gaining Confidence, Speaking Up”

  1. Sharon Edwards says:

    So many people suffer from this … a lack of assertiveness.

    I have friends (mainly at work but some from out of work also) that get walked over day in, day out. They always moan on:

    “Sharon, I can’t say anything to him…he’s my boss, I’ve gotta do his work as well as mine and work overtime…”

    Each time when I hear this i cringe, not being able to adequately comfort them or give sufficient guidance and, even if I could, would they take it? Probably not.

    Your article about being assertive and in particular your concise steps make it easy for anyone struggling in the area to look at themselves closely and start to implement changes in the way they live!

  2. Kate says:

    Well I started reading this article hoping to find out how to become more assertive. But it turns out I already am!! I have always considered myself the one who maybe stays silent when they should speak up, but if the list above is anything to go by I certainly am not. I do calmly state my position and back it up with facts, I do stand up for others on facebook and I have been known to send a carefully worded email refusing to do something unethical. Perhaps I need to read some of your articles on self-confidence instead!!

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