Assertiveness Tips

  • Make your own needs and feelings a priority, even with smaller or less important matters.
  • Use your needs and feelings as a basis for making decisions for yourself and communicating these decisions to others.
  • Just not wanting to do something is sufficient reason to say “no.”
  • If you realize that you have failed to assert yourself in a situation, you can almost always go back & let the other person know this – and then make the assertive response should have originally.
  • Do not feel compelled to explain or justify yourself, and do not apologize if you have done nothing wrong. You are not responsible for making another person understand why you are setting a limit or why you feel a certain way. If the other person is hurt, angry, or offended by your assertive response, you are also not responsible for these feelings.
  • If you can anticipate a situation in which it will be difficult to assert yourself, plan ahead. Try getting one brief phrase or sentence in mind, and just repeating it until you are “heard.”
    Example: That really won’t work for me.
  • Use escalating levels of assertiveness, starting with a more neutral response and becoming more direct or confrontational if the situation requires it.
    My schedule really won’t allow that. (neutral)
    I really need to say “no” here. (more assertive)
    It seems like you’re trying to pressure me. (most assertive)
  • * Do not expect others to read your mind; most people will try to be considerate of your needs and feelings if you make them known.
  • * If you are dealing with someone who does not seem to respect your needs or feelings, use assertive responses that involve less emotional risk (e.g., limit-setting rather than sharing your feelings about how their behavior affects you).
    If this does not work… I get really frustrated when you borrow my things without asking;
    try this…I need to ask that you stop borrowing my things without asking; or this…
    At this point, I cannot lend you any more of my things….
  • * Do not pressure yourself to be directly assertive in every case. For example, if it seems like someone is deliberately mistreating you (*), it might be useless to discuss it because the person is likely to deny the behavior and/or try to justify it. In these cases, it is often best to just minimize your contact and just keep things “superficial.”


The main point of being assertive is to demonstrate respect for yourself and your own needs! This is crucial to developing and maintaining good self-esteem. Added benefits of being more assertive can include better relationships and communication, if the people you’re dealing with are healthy enough to respond positively. If someone acts nasty or rejecting when you get more assertive, it might be time to re-evaluate how well you are being treated in the relationship and how much energy you want to continue investing there.

(*) this refers to low-level, verbal/emotional abuse; you need to get more proactive about stopping physical harassment or abuse. If you someone has been abusive to you, you do not owe him/her the same courtesy and regard that you would usually show; do whatever you need to do to protect yourself. For example, you do not have to give two weeks’ notice before quitting a job in which you are being sexually harassed. If you’re having trouble getting out of an abusive relationship, don’t hesitate to seek help through a local abused persons/domestic violence program (look in telephone book blue pages under county government).