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9 Aug 2008

Assertiveness Tips

Finally in today’s post I am going to share some everyday assertiveness tips that you might find useful. You might want to read up the introductory post here before continuing.

By the way, someone asked me after my introductory post what the difference is between being aggressive and being assertive. I must acknowledge that there is a thin line between aggressiveness and assertiveness. However two key differences when communicating or pushing back is in your tone of voice and body language. Assertive speaking often involves the use of "I" statements. For example "I feel upset when you take my book and don’t put it back where you found it," rather than, "You make me feel upset when you take my book and don’t put it back where you found it". When being assertive, there is no room for sarcasm or attack.

There are so many assertiveness tips out there but I have selected a few. All, some or none might be applicable to you.

Recognise that people are responsible for their own behaviour: have u ever been upset when a friend or loved one comes to you for advice and they go right ahead to do the exact opposite of what you advised them to do?! It can be very frustrating right? We can’t force our loved ones to do what we tell them and the earlier we realise this, the better for us. Sometimes we take the blame when people take the wrong step after we’ve warned/cajoled/begged them not too and the consequence is very grave. As much as we empathise with them, which is the best we can do, every man is responsible for his own behaviour.

Also speaking about behaviour, a common example that comes to mind is when people break up. The person who initiates the break up feels guilty and wants to rescue their ex from their pain. Unfortunately breaking up comes with pain and in as much as you were the one that initiative the break up, the way the ex deals with the pain is their responsibility and not yours. I know this sounds harsh but it is the truth. If we take it upon ourselves to be responsible for how they deal with their pain we would feel obliged to do anything for them even at the expense of our happiness and maybe another relationship. You keep wondering what the ex is thinking, u feel bad when you hear what they have said about you somewhere…and you can’t move on. That is definitely not a place where you want to be. The best you can do is pray that God will help them deal with their pain and move on with your life. We can’t play God.

Recognise that people are different and are entitled to their own point of view: We’ve just had a recent example of this on some blogs where people have had different opinions about an issue. This is bound to happen as people form opinions based on their background, religion, experiences, values etc. We should learn to listen to other people’s POV even if we do not agree as more often than not there is more than one different position for any given situation. By listening to what others have to say we might just learn something new and add to our knowledge base. Also we should be respectful when expressing our point of view.

Let other people know exactly what you want without making unclear requests: wouldn’t life be easier if people could know what we are thinking and we didn’t have to tell them. I for one will find it a relief. Sometimes we think if we drop hints the other person will get the message but this would most likely lead to uncertainty and expectations not being met. By communicating exactly what we want/need we leave no room for guessing games and this gives the other person a chance to respond suitably. For example, your friend wants you to pick up a book from the library on your way back from work because it is close to your place of work but you have a prior engagement you need to attend to and you know getting the book will delay your meeting. Instead of saying “Ok I will try to get the book” simply say something like “I would have loved to help but unfortunately that will mean I might run late for my meeting. Please could you make alternative arrangements to get the book”. That way your friend is not expecting you to get the book and depending on how urgent she needs it, will make other arrangements to get it. Remember you rejected the request and not the person.

Another example that comes to mind is when people get invited to an outing; they say they will try to make the outing knowing they have no plans to attend. People say that is being diplomatic but that is simply just a lie. I believe it is better to politely decline with your reasons so that way you are setting the person’s expectation at that point.

Don’t keep quiet when you have strong feelings about an issue: There are some issues not worth arguing over and sometimes the more mature thing to do is keeping quiet. Silence they say is golden. However when it comes to your health, your safety, your core values, or you know the price of keeping silence will result into anger or resentment it is better to speak up than suffer in silence. For example, your partner typical stays out late and this is a behaviour you cannot stand. This is not the time to keep quiet and hope he/she gets the message someday. This is the time to speak up, communicate how you feel about his/her staying out late and probably both of you can come to an understanding.

Take time out if you need to contain your anger: Have you noticed sometimes you find yourself getting angry during a conversation? At this point it is better to take a break from the discussion than continue. We can hardly communicate effectively when our judgement is clouded with emotions. When we feel much better we can come back and present our position more effectively. This is different from cutting off another person emotionally, which is a destructive tactic that some of us tend to do.

Think through your arguments before presenting them: Because we sometime think our opinion makes more sense than the other person we might tend to get lost in the trivial details that we forget the main points of our arguments. If we want to effectively get our point across we should think through the issues and get down to the core points. The other person might be much more willing to listen if your ideas are presented in an organised and consistent way.

So that's it for tips. I hope they made sense. Please feel free to share other assertiveness tips. Meanwhile I might be going on an assertiveness course at work, if it gets approved. Will let you know what I learn on the course. :)


  1. Nice all that is left is a sensible person to put them to....a lot of people do not know the difference between assertiveness and rudeness while a bunch of others automatically become defenive.....

  2. U def made a lot of sense. I personally like the one bout speaki out wen u hv strong feelingz about an issue. I tell people this all the time and i hear excuses likes its direspectful n all that.. i shud give them ur post to read!

  3. @afrobabe- i totally agree...knowing the difference between assertiveness and rudeness is crucial

    @mzdee- i feel u..i guess as long as we communicate clearly in a courteous manner it shld not be considered as disrespectful. then again some people don't like hearing "NO" and will call u names for speaking up

  4. lol@mz.dee, but babes na true u talk, even 'boo' tells me to hold my opinion until lata (much lata) who sai!! me i talk it as i see/feel it. *grins*

    iyawo howz biz????

  5. Great points Aloted. They are indeed applicable. One thing I have learnt in addition to these is "It's not what you say but how you say it". Speaking constructively (or diplomatically as the case may be) really helps in driving home the point without offending people.

    Na wa oh! This your post is powerful. I like it.

  6. This tips r so useful.
    The "I" instead of "you" is soo true.

    Eg: You don't spend enough time with me, u always come home late @ night

    instead say

    I feel lonely when you are not home early. Can u pls try coming home early.

  7. @LG- biz is moving slowly o but we thank God...thanks for checking up :)

    @Rita- thanks...yes it is definitely in how we say it...people read about our tone and body language than wat we actually say

    @oluwaDee- am glad people like you are getting a hang of what i am talking about. I gbadun this your example :D
    how wedding preps? It's nearly here o...yippeeee!

  8. Nice points babes, hmm, some of us need the course o...let's know if you ge definitely!

  9. Nice points babes, hmm, some of us need the course o...let's know if you ge definitely!

  10. Hmm...very insightful. See at work they let me take care of all the difficult clients cos they say I make them listen and act but what I do is put on my nija voice. All this oyinbo pampering I cant handle. They dont like my tone, but they're happy as long as I get the job done. I guess I can put your points to good use.

    Thanks for stopping at mine.

  11. Lol.. I remember learning all these a few yrs back and I still don't know how to use it!!
    Sometimes it soo difficult to express what you want when people's mind are set on being biased though.
    Great post..looking forward to your thots after your course.
    P.S I finally updated..

  12. nice points to note. it would make life better if people can just understand lal of these and more. we are different and dont have to think alike or like same things, or dislike people for who they are

  13. @writefreak- yes assertiveness is something we all learn. will keep u posted..pray my boss approves the training

    @parakeet- lol..i like that "your nija voice"...nonsense voice abi...correct...but u know we naija people can be more on the agressive side...

    sleek n' catty- abi o..its something we have to put into practice. will go check ur blog in a bit

    @uzezi- my gambian friend :) yes o..if only we remember people are different from us, life will be a more peaceful place.

  14. The one I liked best was "Think through your arguments before presenting them."

    I'm sure that will always make a lot of difference.

    I really love these assertiveness tips...thanks.

  15. Great tips babe, I'll definitely be putting some of them into action. I especially like the first one cos I have been dealing with a friend who refused to take my advice some time ago and is now heartbroken. I felt bad but now I realise it was her choice.

    Hope you and Mr are doing great :)

  16. @jaycee- thanks girl...

    @FG- i can imagine about your friend but she made her choice. so are u going to use these assertiveness tips with your neighbour ;)

    The Mr and I are good...thanks for asking. Regards to your hubby.

  17. Communication is important as well as assertiveness. It all lies in the interpretation and the body language.

  18. @naijalines- abi ke?! my point exactly :)

  19. plenty pple no know d diff, esp @ work. God go help us & keep us 4rm murdering some 'sharp mouth' colleagues eh

  20. Nice one. I identify with the tip on ‘letting other people know exactly what you want without making unclear requests’. A good example was the ‘attending the party’ thing. Sometimes, I tell pple I will try to do s.thing, when indeed I know that I can’t fulfil that request. So I will be working on that. ‘On being responsible for other pple’s behaviour’…. You were talking to me for real.

  21. correct one jooooooooooooooooooooo. I have learnt reading this. Thank you mi-lady

  22. @FFF- Amen o my sister. amen!

    @anonymous- glad someone could identify with my examples. hope u begin to use the tips!

    @standtall- you are welcome :)

  23. i learnt a lot from this cos im not usually an assertive person....

    ddnt know there are courses on assertiveness...wonders shall never end!

  24. @buttercup- omo there are courses on anything these days o especially in the office place...they want to teach u how to relate to others...

    i hope u'll be able to apply some of these tips :)

  25. Thanks for dragging me here by force :)
    Hmm, I think we hang around different people. Most of my married friends actually pay their wives more attention than themselves. That's how its going to be for me too.
    I guess part of that may come from the crappy 'Igbo' tendency that our wives are our pride.

  26. "Think through your arguments before presenting them" how so true though would have loved to rather express my opinion (without thinking it through) as the core point, which is not always so.

  27. Awesome post. I love stuff like this.



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