What Is Assertiveness?

Behaviour is not just a simple reflex action like breathing.  Rather you develop habits over a period of time by repeating the behaviour. The way you behave both verbally and visually has a great impact on what people think about you. They can like, dislike, ignore, dominate or please you based on your behavior pattern. In order to become assertive, you first have to understand your behavior, decide you want to change it and then begin using the assertive approach.

So what does an assertive approach look like?

Here are some elements to consider:

  1. Be able to express your opinions and feelings honestly.
  2. Be able to say “no” without feeling guilty about it.
  3. Be able to set your own priorities as they suit your needs.
  4. Be able to ask for what you want in an honest and respectful manner.
  5. Be able and willing to take reasonable risks to get what you want.

Whenever you are unhappy about a situation you have the following choices to implement in order to resolve it:

  1. Accept the situation and live with it……that will not likely make you happy.
  2. Become aggressive because you are unhappy…..this will not give you a positive outcome.
  3. Become submissive or passive and essentially do nothing…..this will only enable the behavior that makes you unhappy.
  4. Be assertive about the situation…..this will likely get you the best result.

Submissive people are generally reluctant to express their feelings, ideas, and thoughts to others.  They usually say “yes” to everything as they do not want to offend, hurt or disappoint anyone.  In this way, they are allowing others to make choices for them.  They will do almost anything to avoid confrontation so will not criticize or complain. Sometimes, they become very good at backstabbing and playing games to get back at those who have “abused” them…..this is passive aggressive behavior and difficult to deal with effectively by those on the receiving end of the behavior.  These individuals usually just keep quiet and have poor negotiating skills.  They may seem happy, however, underneath that exterior, they are usually not very happy, however as the rest of us are not minding readers, we do not know what is troubling them because they have not told us.

Aggressive people easily get angry, accuse, threaten, and blame others.  They generally behave as if it is my way or the highway! They are generally stubborn and uncompromising. They are quick to criticize others and like to be the center of attention…..they like to be in control!  They have little regard for the feelings of others and like to “win” at all costs.  Finally, they generally put themselves, their wishes and opinions before anyone else’s.  Being in their presence breeds negativity and often isolation as no one likes to be around them.

Assertive people believe that everyone is equal.  They are comfortable expressing themselves, listen well and can communicate effectively with others.  They have no trouble saying “no” when it is appropriate and generally are able to keep their emotions in check.  They are good problem solvers and generally alternatives readily.  They feel no guilt or obligation to do what others demand. They are open to hearing the other person’s view or perception as well as their ideas.

So, if you want to become assertive, you need to do the following…….

✅ Respect yourself and recognize your own personal needs.

✅ Make clear “I” statements when taking responsibility for what you have done.  Don’t worry about making mistakes as those are opportunities to learn.  You can change your mind if you feel it is appropriate to solve something.  You can take your time to think about an issue so that you will be able to determine the best solution.  You need to feel able to clearly state your needs and then enjoy your success.  You are not responsible for others unless it is right in specific instances. If you want respect, then respect others.  Be able to say “no” when it is the right thing to do.

If you adopt those behaviours you will have more win/win outcomes, enjoy better self-control, greater self-confidence, less stress, and more meaningful longterm relationships

Consider this, non-assertive people often experience depression, frustration, bouts of temper, resentment, and stress-related issues such as anxiety.

It will always be better to espouse an assertive approach to dealing with issues that make you unhappy because by being direct, honest, calm, and clear those with whom you have issues will be able to better understand your point of view, appreciate your willingness to listen to them and thus, everyone has a better chance of a positive outcome.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. Sandy I love this. When I first became more involves in community outreach I wanted to help everyone. I had to learn to say no to some so I could focus on making a bigger impact on those I felt I could help the most.