It's no secret - some people are definitely more assertive than others. Whether it's at work, college or simply in everyday life, there are some people who you simply do not cross, and they will clearly let you know when you have crossed a boundary with them.
On the other side of that, you have people who just have it in their nature to be a little on the softer side, putting everyone else's needs above their own. While you may read that and think that putting others first all the time is the unselfish thing to do, we're here to tell you that that's simply not true, nor is it sustainable. You need to put yourself first in order to help those around you in a positive and efficient way - as the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup.
And building assertiveness plays a large role in that. Establishing healthy boundaries with those around you and knowing when to have your own back is a massively important part of self-development and building self-esteem. If you're not doing that, you're letting other people control where your boundaries are and how they can speak to you and treat you. In other words, you're giving away your power to every single person who crosses your path.
Plus, your lack of assertiveness may have a bad effect on others too. For example, if someone crosses a boundary with you and you don't speak up for yourself, this can lead to feelings of resentment which may lead to passive-aggressive behaviour towards that person. It's so important to avoid that by communicating your thoughts and feelings in an open, honest and respectful manner - sorting out the issue there and then, thus avoiding future blow-ups.
We all have intrinsic value and we deserve to be there for ourselves and stand up for ourselves when we need to. You'll be glad to know that this doesn't have to be in the form of letting a roar at your boss the next time he or she pushes you too far - sometimes the smallest of actions can send a loud and clear message.
Here are three small ways you can be assertive in your everyday life.
This sounds small, but it can stand in a lot of people's way. You might think that saying yes to everything that everyone asks you to do is a great way to be seen as reliable at work, a kind and giving friend and an all-round dependable person. But when it comes to your job, after a while of saying yes to everything, your workload will get so big that you may begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed out, which is no use to anyone.
Plus, when you're the one in the friend group who drops everything to be there for others, who turns up at every birthday party and never says no to an invitation, you might start to get a little hurt when people don't return the favour. That's not to say that being there for your friends is a bad thing, or that you should only do things for others for something in return, but it's good to be aware that people (yourself included!) only have so much time and energy in a day, and you are 100% allowed to say no to things if you feel you need space, a rest or simply some alone time.
Saying no for the first couple of times can be daunting, but once you get used to it, people won't feel the need to push you and try and convince you to change your mind anymore. They'll simply accept that no means no, and you will too. As a very wise friend once told me, "no" is a full and complete sentence all by itself.
Learn what your boundaries are and express them.
If you've gone your whole life without being assertive, you may not know what's okay and what's not okay for people to do and say to you. This is a problem I ran into when I was first learning to be assertive. I found that every time I stood up for myself or said no to something, I would come away with an unshakeable feeling of guilt and anxiety, thinking that I was acting selfish and had hurt the other person's feelings in some way.
When speaking to a friend about the issue, I told her that while I completely understood that people are allowed to say no to others, I didn't know when I should - what was the difference in acting assertive and selfish? She replied simply that I should trust myself, and when an issue comes up - for example, someone saying something unpleasant to me or someone asking me to do something for them - I should ask myself how it affects me. Is their request making me feel majorly overwhelmed and stressed or is it just a minor inconvenience? Did that person's comment really make me feel bad or did it feel like they may have simply misspoken?
When you ask yourself these questions, trust the answers that come up for you. Your gut will rarely ever lead you astray.
Accept that people will disagree with you and that is okay.
We are all completely different - no two of us are the same. This means all of us have different thoughts, opinions and feelings on situations every minute of every day and that's completely okay. You may express your thoughts and feelings in the clearest, most respectful way and some people still can't - or won't - see your point of view. That doesn't mean you're wrong for thinking or feeling a certain way, and it doesn't mean you should avoid expressing yourself in the future. There are plenty of people who will agree with you and see your point of view, but regardless, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself, anyway. In a more practical sense, once you work on accepting that it is completely okay for people to disagree with you, you'll find it easier to speak up in meetings at work or to have a difficult conversation with a friend.
Finally, don't be afraid of being assertive. True assertiveness isn't being harsh or cruel - it is simply the act of being completely true to yourself, speaking with integrity and respecting yourself and those around you.