Constantly feel like a doormat? Can't say "no" to your friends or your boss? Then it's time to get assertive.

Young man with a megaphone.

Be heard!

It can be frustrating when you’re always being told what to do and never seem to get your own way. Whether it’s at work with your boss, with your friends, or your family, learning to be assertive can help you get your voice heard.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a way of expressing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in a direct, honest, and appropriate way. An assertive person is good at influencing, listening, and negotiating so that others choose to do what they want happily. It doesn’t mean being aggressive, and it doesn’t mean you’ll get your own way all the time. But it should help stop you being burdened with other people’s problems and responsibilities.

Assert yourself

If you tend to panic, hide under your desk or fly off the handle at the first whiff of a problem, you probably need to take heed of these tips and assert yourself in with your friends or at work.

  • Be clear about what you want to say: Make direct statements and take responsibility for what you say, i.e. use ‘I’ rather than ‘s/he’ or ‘everyone thinks.’
  • Get straight to the point: Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked by other people or trying to soften the blow.
  • Be prepared to compromise: Remember that other people have rights too, don’t become a bully.
  • Use suitable facial expressions: Maintain good eye contact and keep your voice firm but pleasant. Be calm and attentive and they’ll be more ready to compromise.
  • Listen: Let people know you’ve heard what they’ve said. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.
  • Ask for time to think if you need it: There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you need time to make a decision.
  • Don’t apologise unless there is a good reason to do so: Don’t say ‘sorry’ just because the other person is unlikely to be pleased with what you are saying. It’s better to give reasons rather than excuses for what you want to do.
  • Learn to say no to unreasonable requests: Use the word “no” and offer an explanation if you choose to. Don’t apologize and don’t make up excuses. Paraphrase the other person’s point of view. So that they know that you understand what they’re asking.

Often you can get assertiveness training within the workplace or at a local evening class. Ask your boss or contact your local careers centre for more information.

Learn more about how to be assertive and how to set boundaries in a relationship.

Next Steps

  • Through the arts and education Body Gossip, a positive body image charity, aims to empower everyone to fulfil their potential.
  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.




Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of boy with a megaphone by Shutterstock.