How to Be Assertive
without Being Aggressive

How to be assertive has a lot to do with practicing self respect. Unfortunately, many of us have a hard time with saying "no" when we want to say no. We find it difficult to trust our own feelings.

Very often, we feel forced to accept something we don’t want to accept. We fear that the other person is going to feel offended, irritated or simply dislike us.

This page is all about learning to respect our feelings and learning skills that will allow us to express ourselves assertively.

Your Assertiveness Rights

Lets start with some of the assertiveness rights that Dr. Manuel J. Smith lists in his classic book "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty". He lists 10 assertiveness rights but I will discuss only three, the ones I consider most important.

Assertive Right #1:

Only YOU have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions.

If you want to be free of manipulation, do not let others judge your behavior (either in actuality or in your own mind).

The following is a FALSE belief statement that prompts manipulation:

"You should not make independent judgments about yourself and your actions. You must be judged by external rules, procedures and authorities wiser and greater than yourself"

Instead, exercise your right to be THE ULTIMATE judge of yourself. Stop manipulation by being your own judge.

If other people try to convince you that you are wrong and that you should change your mind, you can answer with a polite, "perhaps I should change my mind but this is still the way I feel right now." With such an honest and open response it is impossible for the other person to be successful at trying to manipulate you.

Assertive Right #2:

You have the right to refuse to offer any reasons or excuses to justify your behavior.

You, being the ultimate judge of your behavior, do not have to explain your reasons or justify your behavior to anybody. Others, of course, have their assertive right to believe you are wrong. But as somebody told me once; what others think about you is none of your business.

The following FALSE belief also fosters manipulation: "You should explain your reasons for your behavior to other people since you are responsible to them for your actions."

Other people do not have the right to manipulate you by demanding reasons from you. They will try to turn your reasons around and make you believe that your reasons are not good enough.

Assertive Right #3:

You have the right to judge whether you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

We are responsible for finding our own happiness, but we can’t be held responsible of creating happiness for someone else. Other people are responsible to find solutions for their own problems. You can help, if you want, but know that this is NOT your obligation.

This form of manipulation is based on the false belief that "You should always try to help other people and sacrifice your own best interest by putting their interest first."

I Want, I Have, I Should…

When learning how to be assertive you may become confused between distinguishing manipulation of your behavior and what you really want to do yourself. Try phrasing your internal conflict in any of the three following categories:

• "I Want"

• "I Have"

• "I Should"

The "I want" category is straight forward. Either you want something or you don’t. The "I have" category is about compromises that you work within yourself and with other people.

Some people confuse the "I have" with the "I should". Shoulds can be categorized as a manipulative structure to get you do to something you don’t really want to do. Whenever you hear somebody (or even yourself) saying that you should do X , Y or Z , extend your anti-manipulative antenna ...

Next Page

"When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Dr. Manuel J. Smith, a bestseller on how to be assertive.

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