How to Become More Assertive in Social Situations

Katy Morin

Assertiveness is one of those things that some people seem to be naturally good at, while others simply aren’t. It definitely did not come naturally to me. If you’re like me, people can tell you to “just be more assertive” till they’re blue in the face, but it won’t help. Why? Because they’re not telling you how to go about it!

Once you find out specific things you can do to help you make the change to greater assertiveness, and then practice them, you’ll find it easier and easier to be bold and assert yourself in social situations.

There are many different character traits that can contribute to assertiveness. You can work on strengthening any one of them or a few of them if you feel that you’re lacking in any categories.

Some people believe that people are just the way they are and it should just be accepted. It’s true to a certain extent, but you’d be surprised by how much you can change when you’re truly dedicated. If you want to be more assertive, you can be, regardless of others’ opinions.

Here are some strategies I used to become more assertive that could help you:

1. Believe in yourself. Self-confidence and believing in yourself are very important traits. Strengthening your confidence in yourself and your abilities can bring you greater assertiveness too.

  • A good way to start building your self-confidence is by reflecting on your talents and skills. Write them down. You may be surprised at the length of your list! Feel good about these gifts and do what you can to further develop them.

2. Learn how to deal with your frustrations. If you keep everything bottled inside, you might end up exploding in someone’s face. People won’t see this as assertiveness; more likely, they’ll see it as arrogance or aggression. When you’re frustrated, voice your opinion as soon as you can while the situation is at hand and work out your differences together. Aggressiveness focuses on winning at the expense of others. Assertiveness is much more balanced. Think about the needs of the other person and strive to find a solution that benefits both of you.

3. Be calm and clear. Staying calm and talking clearly will convey assertiveness and self-confidence in social situations. It’s a great rule to remember if you’re ever feeling negatively in a situation. Remember to tell yourself to be calm first and then concentrate on your clarity.

4. Overcome your fears. Fears might be holding you back from being assertive. You may even fear being in social situations. Face your fears head on by placing yourself in situations you fear. Start with smaller manifestations of your fears and move up to larger ones step by step. Remind yourself that your thoughts, desires, and rights are just as important as those of everyone else. It’s fair to protect your rights, and you have the right to be treated with respect.

5. Express your needs. It might be hard to break out of your shell the first time, but eventually, people will listen to what you have to say. Let them get used to the fact that you’re speaking up and showing that you have wants, needs, and desires just like anyone else. Others are more likely to accommodate your requests when you’re clear about your needs. It’s not enough to express your displeasure. Tell others what you want.

6. Pay attention to body language. Give extra attention to your body language when you practice being assertive. People will know that it’s a front if your shoulders are hunched or your arms are crossed. You might even have a nervous tick. Open up your shoulders and relax your body before you begin speaking. Stand up straight, walk confidently, and carry yourself assertively. This requires practice. Take every opportunity to practice your non-verbal behaviors. Maintain good eye contact. Avoid staring at the floor. You’re taken much more seriously when you make good eye contact.

7. Remember that there’s no downside. Your request might be refused. That’s as bad as it can get. You can’t lose anything. At worst, you’re stuck in the same position. Being assertive can only bring positive or neutral results. It’s like gambling in Vegas without the potential to lose money. How exciting is that?

8. Stop apologizing. Many of us use the term “I’m sorry” far too frequently and often at inappropriate times. Think about when you use those two simple words. Is it in a situation that you truly should be sorry for? Once you’re able to stop apologizing for every little thing, you’ll become more assertive. Learn to differentiate between when there’s a need to apologize and when there isn’t.

  • Hitting someone’s cart in a grocery store because you weren’t looking warrants an apology.
  • Drinking the last cup of orange juice before your spouse is not a situation that warrants an “I’m sorry.”
  • If you’re watching television and your child prefers to sit in the chair you’re sitting in, “I’m sorry” isn’t appropriate.

9. Model your behavior after people you admire. Chances are the people you admire have the assertiveness and confidence you’re looking for in your own life.

  • Observe how they do things.
  • Pay attention to what they say and how they say it.
  • Watch their body language.

Studying people who have the traits you crave is one of the best ways to create those very same traits in yourself.

10. Overcome shyness. Shyness can range from healthy to overwhelming and debilitating. Shyness is not the same as having low self-esteem. Many shy people have a very positive image of themselves, but they lack assertiveness and confidence. If you’re shy, you can practice these techniques to overcome your shyness:

Visualization. Positively visualize situations and circumstances before experiencing them. This will give you a better “what if” scenario, and help you be better prepared for any variation.

Practice speaking. People who are shy often dislike the sound of their own voices. Practicing speeches in front of a mirror or with trusted friends will help you gain the confidence you need. If you want to go to the next level, join a Toastmasters club.

Reinforce the positive. This is a way of thinking yourself out of being shy. By using affirmations to assert your positive characteristics, you can convince yourself that you are brilliant and worthy of great things. After all, sometimes the hardest person to convince is you!

While developing your assertiveness, give yourself time to achieve change. Be patient and strong. It might be tough at first, but you’ll get the hang of it the more you practice these strategies. Soon, assertiveness will come naturally to you!

First and foremost, you must believe in yourself and your abilities. Keep in mind that some of our greatest leaders didn’t start out assertive and confident. George Washington was too shy to talk to people growing up. He changed his ways, and so can you!

If you want more tips about assertiveness, download my free guide: Assertiveness Training 101

If you need more information to overcome social anxiety, join my community where I’ll be sharing more techniques to overcome loneliness and fear of communicating with others, by showing you how to communicate better in your interpersonal and professional relationships, to have the social life and the career you want.

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