Many times you may find yourself having difficulty-telling people what you think, or feel, or need. You may hesitate to let others know these things, thinking people will believe you’re silly or not intelligent. Sometimes you may believe that if you express yourself directly then others will become hurt or angry. You may even believe that others, especially those close to you, should know how you feel. Assertive behavior can help you in dealing with these difficult feelings.

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is expressing your thoughts and feelings and needs directly to others. Assertiveness is different from aggressiveness, or telling other people off, or giving someone a piece of your mind. In assertiveness, while you express your needs, you respect the other person’s thought, feelings, and needs. Aggressive behavior can be hurtful and overbearing. Assertiveness avoids this.

Assertiveness is unlike passiveness. Passive behavior is an unwillingness to express feelings and thoughts directly. Sometimes being reluctant to do this is a result of fear of being rejected or being seen as stupid by others. Passive behavior discounts our own importance and demonstrates a lack of self-respect. An outcome of passive behavior is a “build-up and blow-out” of anger. When you fail to express yourself directly, the result is a continual feeling of low self- esteem.

How Can I Become Assertive?

Assertiveness begins in believing in yourself as “the new person you are in Christ.” You may start by identifying what you like about yourself and be willing to stand up for yourself. You can practice assertive behavior by:

1) Using “I” messages. When expressing feelings or opinions say, “I feel…,” ; I believe…,” or “I think…” Avoid “you” messages. “You” messages sound accusatory and may put the other person on the defensive. If you are asking the other person to change his/her behavior, describe the behavior you would like to see changed and indicate how their present behavior causes you to feel. An example: “I feel angry/hurt when you don’t consider my opinions. It makes me think you don’t respect my feelings.”

2) Remember you are not responsible for the feelings of other people. You can be sensitive and respectful of other people’s feelings; however each individual is responsible for taking care of their own feelings.

3) Look assertive – using good body language.
a) Maintain good eye contact with the person to whom you are
b) Stand erect. Sometimes standing with your feet 6-8 inches apart causes you to feel a solid base of support and can actually help you feel stronger.
c) Speak clearly and loudly so the other person can hear you. Let your voice sound confident and strong. Do not whine!
d) Use facial expressions and gestures to emphasize what you are

4) Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. Whenever you change an old pattern, the new pattern or behavior feels strange. Let the uncomfortable feeling work for you. Use that as a red flag reminding you to pause and think about what you want to say; what you are actually saying; and how you are appearing.

5) Sometimes in the beginning, it’s helpful to choose a good role model, someone who consistently demonstrates assertive behavior.

6) Reward Yourself!!! Remember other people don’t have to like what you say. You can pat yourself on the back for expressing yourself directly!!

Remember!!! Assertiveness takes commitment, practice, and a willingness to experiment with new positive behaviors.


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