Being assertive is a skill.  Assertiveness means knowing that our needs, wants, desires, and feelings are as important as other people’s.  It is about being clear with ourselves and others while still respecting that people might think differently than we do and might have different points of view. When we are assertive it shows not only that we respect ourselves but also that we respect other people. When we are able to be assertive it can boost our confidence and self esteem.  It can help us manage stress in our lives, have stronger relationships, and even improve our sex lives and sexual health. 

Sometimes we may go through periods of time when we are feeling the need to be liked, the need to make other people happy, and put less value on our own needs.  It can be hard, but it is healthier for us if we can stop worrying about being liked and focus instead on what is fair for everybody involved.  Including ourselves! For example, have you ever gone alone with something sexual that you really didn’t feel comfortable doing, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to say “no”.  You may have been afraid of rejection or afraid to disappoint the other guy(s).

There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Aggression is more like anger and bullying.  If we are being aggressive we may demand that our needs be met without considering other people.  When we are assertive we try to find balance between our own needs and other people’s needs in a way that is fair. 

Being assertive requires that we work on our confidence.  Learning to value ourselves, having things we like about ourselves, being proud of our accomplishments and the things we have overcome, and not thinking negative thoughts about ourselves can increase our confidence. This makes it easier for us to be comfortable having difficult conversations in a way that is fair to ourselves as well as other people.

Being assertive requires that we know what our needs are.  Taking the time to identify the things that we need in life, the things we want, and the things we feel comfortable doing helps us be clear with other people.  It also helps us to set limits and know what we are willing and not willing to compromise.

Being assertive requires communication.  Good communication is a mix of being able to be honest and talk about how we feel and being able to listen to what others say without reacting or letting fear or anger prevent us from really hearing and understanding where the other person is coming from. 

Some assertiveness tips:

Start with small things. Becoming assertive can take time and practice.  If we try out being assertive in less tense or serious situations and it goes well we might feel more confident being assertive in tougher situations. 

Learn to say “no”. Sometimes we worry that we are being selfish or rude if we say no.  Being able to set boundaries and limits is an important part of having healthy relationships.

Stop feeling guilty. It can be hard to start being assertive if we aren’t used to it. If we are used to focusing on other people’s needs it can feel strange when we start standing up for ourselves. It is important to remember that when we are being assertive we are looking out for ourselves in a way that still shows respect to other people.

Be clear about our needs and feelings. People won’t know what we need if we don’t tell them.  It is helpful if we are as clear as we can possibly be.  Be sure to use “I” statements.  There is a difference between saying “You make me feel sad. You don’t respect me“ and saying “I get upset when you are late. When you show up late I feel that you don’t respect me.”

Listen carefully. We all want to be heard when we talk and it is important that we hear what the other person is saying. It shows respect and also shows that we care about the other person’s point of view and feelings.

Remember to breathe. Taking a deep breath can help us clear our minds, relax, and focus.  It is important that we feel calm when we are being assertive.  


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