Assertiveness is a communication style that allows you to express your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in an open, honest, and direct way, all while respecting the rights and beliefs of others.
Being assertive will enable you to express dissenting opinions, deal with conflicts, and clarify misunderstandings.
However, being assertive can sometimes go too far, especially when you’re not actively listening to others and genuinely considering their point of view. In these cases, you’re not being a good team player – this is a common trait of poor leaders!
Similarly, being assertive can be wrong in many situations, such as when you’re not considering others’ points of view or just trying to take advantage of a situation rather than seeking genuine fairness for all.
1. Setting Personal Boundaries
Setting personal boundaries is key to maintaining your mental and emotional health.
This involves communicating to others what you consider to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
For example, if a colleague consistently interrupts you during meetings, you might say, “I think I have valid contributions as well, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt my sharing.”
2. Requesting A Promotion At Work
If you want a promotion, you may need to assertively communicate your intentions to your employer, or else you may never get it!
A possible way to do this might be, “I’ve greatly contributed to the team’s success, and I believe my skills warrant a promotion.”
Remember – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In other words, you need to speak up or else you won’t get any attention!
3. Saying ‘No’ without Guilt
Expressing refusal can be daunting, but saying ‘no’ is necessary in order to craft the life you want.
Assertiveness, in this case, provides an avenue to express this need for personal space or time without inducing feelings of guilt.
Let’s say a friend invites you to a late-night movie but you have an early morning meeting at work the next day.
Rather than struggle with tiredness, your assertive response might be: “I appreciate the invite and would love to spend time with you, but I am anticipating a busy day at work tomorrow and need a good night’s sleep tonight. Could we perhaps reschedule for a more convenient time?”
4. Expressing Differing Opinions
When societal or group dynamics lean favorably towards a particular notion but you hold a contrasting view, assertiveness encourages you to openly express your perspective without causing friction or offense.
For instance, you may find yourself in a situation where your friends strongly support a political view that you do not align with.
An assertive response might look something like this: “I understand and respect why you hold these views but, based on my experiences and understanding, I have a different perspective. I hope we can engage in a healthy discussion to appreciate each other’s viewpoints without turning it into a heated argument.”
5. Preventing Cheats
Sometimes, you need to be assertive to prevent cheating, especially if you’re the authority figure or someone being harmed by the cheating.
Take, for example, a professor who notices that someone has cheated in an exam. If the professor doesn’t assert the rules, then he is giving an implicit message that cheating isn’t bad (or, at least, you can get away with it). This could lead to chaos in the next exam, with even more people cheating!
In these situations, asseting the rules is good for all.
6. Ensuring Fairness
Oftentimes, assertiveness is a valid decision if it’s about making sure fairness is provided for all.
That professor from the previous example would come in useful here, too. The professor might set a due date as 12 noon. A student who submits at 9pm might ask for leniency. What should the professor do?
That late submission didn’t strictly adhere to the rules. They got an extra 9 hours to cram and get something produced. An assertive professor would strictly stick to the rules out of awareness that giving leniency sends a bad message to the whole class, and undermines fairness in procedures.
7. Refusing to Compromise Your Morals
Oftentimes, we need to be assertive if someone asks us to do something that’s not consistent with out own moral framework.
Take, for example, someone who on moral grounds refuses to participate in a scheme to take food from a shop without paying for it.
This person might feel peer pressure to participate. But, if they’re able to exercise assertiveness, they could state that they refuse to participate, remove themselves from the situation, or simply remain and pay for their own meal but not their friends’.
8. Negotiating the Price
One way to practice your assertiveness is to go to a market where you know prices are negotiable. Here, you can haggle and see how well you can stand your ground while still getting your way.
So long as you’re not exceeding your budget, you can practice your assertiveness skills in a low-risk environment: argue about why you think the price should be lower, find a price you think is right, and don’t back down!
9. Asking For A Pay Raise
Many people find it uncomfortable to talk about a salary increment, often due to fear of seeming greedy or facing rejection.
However, if your performance and contribution to your company warrant a raise, assertiveness enables you to communicate your request in a professional and convincing manner.
For instance, you might schedule a meeting with your boss and say, “I’ve been reflecting on my growth and contributions to the company, especially in recent projects like X and Y which positively impacted our team’s performance. Given these contributions, and to align my salary with the current industry standard, I kindly request a reconsideration of my compensation.”
10. Ending Dysfunctional Relationships
Whether it’s a personal or professional relationship, staying in situations that continually cause distress or harm is detrimental to one’s well-being.
Assertiveness allows you to recognize dysfunctional situations and take necessary action.
For example, breaking off a toxic friendship could look like this: “Over time, I have realized that our relationship is causing me more harm than good due to actions and behaviors such as X, Y, and Z. For the sake of my wellbeing, I believe it’s best to part ways.”
11. Addressing Workplace Microaggression
Microaggressions – subtle, indirect forms of discrimination or bias – can make the workplace environment uncomfortable and hostile.
Assertiveness aids in addressing these issues respectfully but effectively.
If a colleague consistently mispronounces your name despite corrections, an assertive response could be, “I have noticed that you continuously mispronounce my name. It might seem trivial, but this issue is significant to me as it represents my identity and heritage. Please do exert effort in getting it right.”
12. Standing Up Against Bullying
Bullying can take many forms, but it’s always harmful, and it requires assertive people to let bullies know it isn’t okay.
Assertiveness equips you with the courage and words to stand up to the bully without exacerbating the situation.
Suppose someone constantly teases you for being meticulous at work. An assertive way to handle this would be to say, “I understand that you view my thoroughness as being nitpicky. However, it’s a crucial aspect of my work ethic, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in all my tasks. I would appreciate it if you would respect my approach to work.”
13. Addressing Disrespectful Behavior
Disrespect can gradually wear down your self-esteem and mental health. If you lack assertiveness, you may let it go on too long, harming you more and more.
But assertiveness may involve asserting your right to be treated kindly and humanely.
If a friend often belittles you, assertiveness ensures you can confront them without escalating the situation: “I value our friendship, but when you belittle me, it hurts my feelings and disrespects me. I would appreciate if you would refrain from such behavior.”
14. Handling Criticism Constructively
Criticism can be hard to accept, however, it’s sometimes necessary for personal and professional growth.
If criticism feels unfair, asserting your perspective is crucial.
For instance, if your boss criticizes your project adversely, you might say, “I understand your concerns about the project. However, I put considerable thought into my decisions, keeping our objectives in mind. I would appreciate it if we could discuss this so I can explain my perspective.”
15. Expressing Personal Interests
Sometimes, our interests may not align with those of others.
In such cases, being assertive allows us to respect our desires without infringing upon others.
For example, if a friend insists you watch a movie genre you don’t enjoy, you can say, “I understand your enthusiasm for horror films, but they just aren’t my preference. I’d love if we could find another genre that both of us enjoy.”
16. Advocating for Safety at Workplace
Workplace safety is a vital aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked or compromised.
If you notice that there are certain safety measures or protocols that are not being adhered to or are non-existent, it’s essential to assertively bring this to the attention of those in charge.
For example, you might say: “I’ve been observing that the safety measures in our warehouse are inadequate which makes the environment prone to accidental injuries. As this is crucial for the well-being of all employees, it’s very important that we address this issue as a priority. Could we discuss upgrading our safety equipment and protocols?”
17. Requesting Proper Attribution for Your Work
Getting credit for your work is both professionally and personally gratifying.
If you see your work being presented or used by someone without giving you due credit, it’s important to assertively yet politely ask for that acknowledgment.
You could say something like: “I noticed that the data used in your presentation was from my recent research. Giving due credit is crucial as it validates the work of the individuals involved. So, I would appreciate if you could give proper credit when using someone else’s work in the future.”
18. Requesting Leave from Work
Balancing work and personal life is key for overall well-being. Assertive communication is essential when you need to request time off work.
An example might be: “As much as I am committed to my work, I also greatly value my personal life. Due to certain personal commitments and responsibilities, I am in need of leisure time to recharge. For this reason, I would like to request a leave of absence for X days. During my time off, I will ensure that my work is managed appropriately.”
19. Communicating Dietary Preferences
In many social or professional settings, it may be necessary to communicate specific dietary preferences or restrictions.
Assertive communication is key to ensuring your needs are met, without coming off as overly demanding.
For example, you could say: “Thank you for organizing the lunch for our office meeting. As I adhere to a vegetarian diet, it would be appreciated if a few vegetarian options could be part of the menu. I’m sure there are others who would appreciate these additional options as well.”
20. Negotiating Deadlines
Deadlines can often feel arbitrary and sometimes, too tight, affecting the quality of output.
Assertiveness allows you to negotiate a reasonable timeframe that suits both you and your manager.
For example – “Given the time and effort required for X task to meet our quality standard, it might be more feasible to move the deadline to Y to ensure the best outcome.”
21. Asserting Your Right to Privacy
Privacy is an individual’s fundamental right. If you realize that your personal boundaries are being breached, assertive communication helps safeguard that space.
By saying something like, “Resorting to discussions about my personal life during our professional interactions seems uncomfortable for me. I believe it’s crucial for us to respect each other’s private lives and avoid blurring these lines in the future,” you’re making your boundary clear.
Professional environments advocate for maintaining decorum and not indulging in personal disputes.
If you find yourself amidst coworkers’ altercations, you may need to assert your neutrality.
For example, you might say: “while I respect both your viewpoints, I would prefer to maintain my neutrality in this dispute. Our profession encourages maintaining a balance and focusing on business essentials rather than engaging in personal conflicts.”
23. Making Tough Decisions
Life often demands action in the face of adversity and calls for tough decision-making.
Asserting these decisions while respecting others’ sentiments is the key.
Take this scenario for instance, “I acknowledge that this decision may not be popular or may even disappoint some. However, after an elaborate process of deliberation, it seems apparent that this is the most suitable choice for all of us in the long run. Hence, with respect for all other perspectives, I hope we can move forward together with this decision.”
24. Making Decisions as a Team Leader
Being a team leader means actively listening to the members of the team and allowing the team to help guide the project.
But leaders need to make the critical decisions at times (while also respecting and considering your team’s opinions).
This requires using assertiveness to confidently make and communicate decisions, even if they’re not fully supported by everyone in the team.
For example, you could say: “Thank you all for your valuable input. Having taken all your ideas into account, I believe that option X gives our project the most strategic advantage. I understand that not everyone agrees, but I kindly request your support as we move forward.”
25. Dealing with Unfair Blame
In personal and professional environments, there might be times when you become the target of unfair blame.
In such cases, using assertiveness to defend yourself might be appropriate.
For instance, you could say something like: “I completely understand your frustration, but blaming me for this situation is not justified because it wasn’t a result of my actions. I think it’s important for us to do a little more digging to find the true source of the problem.”
Assertiveness is a characteristic of bold people. But it’s hard to master because you need to be sure of your position, make sure you’re being fair to all parties, and sticking to a shared moral framework at all times. But when you need to stand your ground, this trait is a necessity in order to not be walked all over by people who would take advantage of you!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]