Being assertive means expressing and standing up for your own wants and needs without trampling on the rights of others. For instance, being assertive might involve learning how to say no to things you don't want to do or insisting that others treat you with courtesy and respect. Many people have difficulty with assertiveness. Some feel that they don't have difficulty with assertiveness. Others go too far and become aggressive. There are several ways to learn to improve your assertiveness.
Practice with a Loved One
If you know you have a situation coming up where you will have to be assertive, ask someone you trust to practice with you. For instance, suppose you know that the head of the neighborhood association is going to ask you to organize the annual yard sale. You might use your spouse to practice techniques like not offering excuses or politely refusing over and over again like a broken record. Your spouse can give you feedback and help you practice until you feel comfortable refusing the request.
Learn to Deal with Guilt
Many people have trouble with assertiveness because they feel guilty about saying no. If you have this problem, it may help to remind yourself that your needs are just as important as the other person's. You don't have to accept rude behavior or meet someone else's needs just because they ask you to. Sometimes guilt comes from issues like emotional abuse. Seeing a counselor may help you resolve these issues and make it easier to assert yourself.
Start with Small Issues
Learning to be assertive is not easy. It is a skill that you master over time. The best way to learn is to start by asserting yourself over a small issue. For instance, you might turn down a request to contribute a dish to a potluck dinner or a request to babysit a neighbor's child. Once you start to feel more confident asserting yourself, you can speak up over larger issues. Your might, for example, confront a co-worker who is consistently disrespectful to you or you might speak to a neighbor who is in the habit of throwing loud, disruptive parties.
Assertiveness is a skill that will make your life far easier. Being assertive means that you can be open about what you want and need without harming anyone else. Learning assertiveness, though, takes practice and patience. It helps to work on these skills with a loved one or a counselor. It also helps to start with small issues and build up to larger ones. Improving your ability to be assertive can help improve the quality of your life.