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Learning to Be Assertive

CMHC Business Hours:
Monday thru Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm
Phone: (512) 471-3515 - Student Services Building 5th Floor
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Why do people avoid being assertive?
How assertive are you?
How to be assertive
The four types of assertion

What is assertiveness?

  • Clearly communicating what you want
  • Expressing your feelings, needs, and opinions
  • Standing up for your rights when they are threatened or taken advantage of

Why do people avoid being assertive?

Many people avoid being assertive because they confuse being assertive with being aggressive. Aggressiveness violates the rights of others. Assertiveness is a respectful communication of your own rights.

Another reason people avoid asserting themselves is fear of upsetting others or damaging relationships. However, avoiding assertiveness may damage relationships more in the long run, by causing feelings of resentment or mistrust to build.

Being assertive empowers you to express yourself in an honest way with others. It also allows others to know what you want or need from them, making it more likely that they will meet your needs. In other words, assertiveness can be a great tool in helping you build strong, respectful, supportive relationships with loved ones, classmates, and co-workers.

How assertive are you?

Ask yourself the following questions to get an idea of how comfortable you are being assertive.
  • Do you ask for help when you need it?
  • Do you express anger and annoyance appropriately?
  • Do you ask questions when you're confused?
  • Do you volunteer your opinions when you think or feel differently from others?
  • Do you speak up in class fairly frequently?
  • Are you able to say "no" when you don't want to do something?
  • Do you generally speak in a confident manner?
  • Do you look at people when you're talking to them?

How to be assertive

Being assertive can be difficult for many people, for many different reasons. However, all of us can benefit from knowing and respecting our own values, boundaries, and needs. If you know what you want and what you believe going into a situation, it can be easier to express yourself in a clear and assertive manner to others.

Other tips for being assertive include:

  • Give yourself permission to be angry, say "no," ask for help, and make mistakes
  • Learn assertiveness skills by understanding and practicing
    The Four Types of Assertion
  • Practice good communication skills, including
    • Direct eye contact
    • Steady, confident voice
    • Facial expression and body posture matching your statements
  • Practice asserting yourself with people you feel safe with, such as friends and family and ask for feedback.


UT's Counseling & Mental Health Center (CMHC)
Call 512-471-3515 for information on setting up an appointment with a counselor.
CMHC also offers the CMHC Crisis Line: 512-471-CALL for a telephone counselor.

Information on the Internet
State University of New York at Buffalo

Additional Reading
Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in your Life and Relationships, by Robert E. Alberti & Michael Emmons (San Luis Obispo, Impact Publishers, 2008).
Where to Draw the Line: How to Set up Healthy Boundaries Every Day, by Anne Katherine (9th ed.,New York, Fireside, 2000).
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton (2nd ed., New York, Penguin Books, 1991).

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