How to Be Assertive

At some point in time, you’ll need to be assertive.  The ability to be assertive without coming across as aggressive or offensive will be key to your effectiveness.  Following these steps will lead to assertiveness success.

Think Before You Speak

Define the issue you want to address. What’s bothering you?  Think about specific actions or activities that you would like to address (i.e. You have an exam tomorrow and your roommate is just a little too into their PS3 game for you to concentrate). 

Acknowledge your feelings. How do the actions or activities you identified in step one make you feel? (i.e. AHHH!  I need to study! Assuming of course you aren’t in the market to procrastinate). 

sb5432Recognize what the other person might feel. It’s not all about you.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and gain an understanding about what their perspective might be (i.e. They just got FIFA Soccer 10 about a month ago, love it and have been playing ever since.  GOOOOOOOAAAL!). 

Engage in Conversation

Verbally express the recognition of the other person’s feeling and then verbally express your feelings:

“I know you love your new game but tonight I’m concerned about my test tomorrow.”

State your desired end goal:

“It would help me if you could use your headphones tonight and tone down your celebrations.”

Keys to Success

Once you know the process, these keys will support your assertiveness:

Speak specifically about the situation using “I” statements (rather than “you” statements) in a calm and confident tone. Don’t discount your needs, but understand that the other person also has the right to express his or her feelings and opinions.  Speaking in generalities or becoming aggressive (or passive) will undermine your assertive approach.

Speak to the person on their level (either sitting or standing) using eye contact in a confident, open posture.

When it’s your turn to listen, listenGive your full attention to the other person and then summarize in your own words what the person said.  It will help eliminate misunderstandings.

What do you think?  Make it a good day.


Mike Severy is the Director of Student Life at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He views his work through the lens of student leadership development believing that students are developed over time through a series of meaningful experiences and that his role is to help students create and find the meaningful experiences in their lives. You can connect with Mike on Twitter (@MikeSevery).

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