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What Is Assertiveness And Why Is It Important?

Written by Rich Perry
Rich is a Communication Strategist who helps entrepreneurs craft their message and empower them to deliver it.
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Do you ever find yourself giving in to the wants and needs of others or agreeing to activities that steal your attention from what is most important to you? If you said “yes” to either of these, then maybe you have difficulty being assertive.

Here I will explore what it means to be assertive and discuss the importance of making it a priority in your life. I will highlight a few real-world scenarios that you might encounter and break down possible responses for best results. You will also receive practical tips to incorporate into your daily routine that will improve communication skills and boost self-confidence.

What Is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to clearly and directly communicate your own wants and needs. It is the capacity to firmly express one’s feelings, views, beliefs, and choices respectfully, even when they differ or are opposed to what someone else wants.

An assertive person is comfortable and confident in their stance, even when it means saying “no” and disappointing a friend or colleague.

Understand the 3 Communication Styles

Think about the way that you communicate. Are you only out for yourself, striving to make sure your own wants and needs are met by any means necessary? Or do you give in to others by putting their desires and priorities above your own?

The first style noted above is an aggressive style. People with an aggressive style focus only on their own needs and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. They can resort to bullying tactics, intimidation, guilting, manipulation, or demanding measures.


The second style noted above is a passive style. People with a passive style are those who make everyone else a priority. They are unable to refuse a favor and never say no, even if it brings great inconvenience to themself. They put their own desires and interests on pause to answer the call of anyone who seeks their help.

There is a third communication style, which is being assertive (assertiveness). People who are assertive know what they want and stay true to their priorities and self-interests while, at the same time, being mindful and respectful of those around them. They express their desires without imposing on others. they can decline an invitation without feeling guilty and can say “no” without stirring up conflict.

Identifying Your Style

To help you determine your communication style, here are three real-world scenarios dealing with assertiveness. These are examples that you have likely encountered to some degree in the past and will probably face again in the future.

In the event that your communication style changes depending on the social situation, context, or people involved, then simply do your best to give the actual and honest response that you would give in the situation described.

Scenario 1

This weekend is the annual BBQ and you have been looking forward to it for weeks. Friends and family are coming in from out of town and you cannot wait to see everyone. The big celebration is just hours away, and you can hardly contain your excitement. But then, you are hit with an unexpected request. Your colleague messed up on an important project and is asking for your help to resolve the matter. This will not be an easy fix and will likely take up most of the weekend.

How would you respond?

  • Agree to help your colleague, which means having to notify friends and family that the BBQ has been canceled.
  • Refuse to help your colleague while calling him an incompetent idiot as you slam the door on your way out.
  • Inform your colleague that you have important family plans this weekend and will not be able to assist.

Scenario 2

You are a member of a community group. You want to help make a difference in your neighborhood and local area, so you donate time and resources when available. One of the group’s officers has just asked you to take the role of chairman for a committee. Your time is already limited, and this would mean added responsibility and more time donated to the organization, which leaves less time to spend with your family.

How would you respond?

  • “Okay, I guess I can do it.”
  • “I already do enough for this organization and now you want me to do more for you?”
  • “Thank you. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I’m flattered. However, my time is limited so I must decline.”

Scenario 3

A speaker you admire is coming to your area to host a seminar. You have always wanted to see this person speak at a live event. You have seen countless recordings online and finally, you have the chance to sit in the audience and take part in the experience. You tell your spouse the great news, but your partner just doesn’t share your excitement and does not want to go to the seminar.

How would you respond?

  • “You are right. I guess it isn’t that big of a deal. I was foolish for wanting to go to the seminar.”
  • “If you really love me then you will go with me.”
  • “If you aren’t interested in going that’s okay. You don’t have to go. I just thought I would offer. However, I am still going because it is important to me.”

Were you able to identify your communication style? Could you pick out the three distinct styles? In each of the examples, the first choice was the passive style, the second choice was the aggressive style, and the third choice was the assertive style.

Why Is It Important?

Being assertive means valuing your wants, needs, feelings, views, beliefs, and choices. You acknowledge their importance and consciously decide to make these things a priority.

Assertive people value their time and energy. They also have higher levels of confidence and self-worth. Being assertive can also help alleviate confusion, decrease anxiety, and reduce conflict while interacting with others because your desires and interests will have been expressed clearly and directly.


5 Tips on How to Be More Assertive

We now know how good assertiveness is. If you’re struggling to be assertive, though, here are five tips to help you.

1. Set Clear Boundaries

The first step to being more assertive is learning how to set clear boundaries. This can include setting time limits for meetings and activities, not answering the phone after work hours, powering down your mobile device or setting up away messages to avoid distractions, or saying “no” without feeling obligated to offer a reason or backstory.

2. Script Basic Responses

This can be extremely helpful for individuals who find themselves agreeing to requests before giving careful consideration to what is being asked. If you find yourself saying “yes” just to please others, then having a few go-to responses can be a total game-changer. This can be as simple as saying, “Let me check my schedule first and I’ll get back to you.”

Just remember to follow back around with a definite response. Another example would be to simply state, “I am sorry, but I am unavailable,” and leave it at that. Again, you are not obligated to give an explanation.


3. Know Your Worth

Your time and attention are valuable. Stop giving them away to everyone and anyone who asks. If you won’t value your time, then you can’t expect others to do it. Incorporating positive self-talk and reciting affirmations can also help boost confidence, improve self-esteem, and increase feelings of self-worth.

4. Keep Your Cool

It is often difficult to think or communicate clearly and effectively during times of high stress or debilitating anxiety. Practicing deep breathing, relaxation techniques, or grounding exercises can help refocus your mind and alleviate unwanted negative feelings. This can help improve cognitive ability and you will be in a much better mental state to respond appropriately.

5. Take Baby Steps

Practice assertiveness every day. Start small if necessary. Look for little opportunities within everyday common exchanges to practice making assertive decisions. This could mean taking the initiative to decide tonight’s dinner, choosing the activity or movie for a family fun night, taking the day off and treating yourself to a spa day, allowing the incoming call to go directly to voicemail, or saying “no” to something that does not interest you.

Final Thoughts

Consider your wants, needs, feelings, views, beliefs, and choices. Determine how important these things are to you. They should be a priority. Make the conscious decision to start putting them first.

Determine the value of your time, energy, and attention. This exercise will force you to look deep within to measure your self-worth. Be honest with this introspection. If your findings are unsatisfactory, then take a proactive approach by making necessary adjustments. Use the tips described above to make your best interests a priority in your life.

More Communication Tips

Featured photo credit: Smartworks Coworking via unsplash.com

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