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Being assertive

Being assertive can help you to explain how you feel and what you need, without being rude or aggressive. These skills can help you stand up for yourself and still treat other people with respect.

Boy smiling, looking confidentWhat are assertiveness skills?

Being assertive means you clearly explain what you need or want from someone without being pushy or trying to frighten them.

Sometimes it can be hard to say how you really feel, especially if it means disagreeing with someone else. Everyone has the right to say how they feel and ask for what they need.

Assertiveness skills are tools you can use to say how you feel and what you need, without being unkind to yourself or anyone else.

How to be assertive

Being assertive isn’t always easy. Often people will try and get you to change your mind. You don’t have to explain your choice, or answer lots of questions about it. If you’re not sure what you want, it’s OK to ask for more time to make your mind up. If you want to be more assertive try to:

  • practice what you want to say first, or try writing it down
  • act calm and confident
  • make eye contact
  • say what you want, clearly and politely

Don’t apologise for asking for what you need.

  • Being assertive is different to being rude or angry

    If you’re rude or unkind, or if you’re angry and shouting, then you are being aggressive. Aggressive behaviour can hurt other people, and it might cause you more problems. It’s important to stand up for what’s right for you without being aggressive or intimidating.

    Just going along with something that you disagree with means you won’t get what you need from life. It might also mean other people can take advantage of you. Your confidence might be affected if don’t feel able to put yourself and what you need first sometimes.

  • What techniques can I use to be more assertive?

    The ‘Broken Record’ is a tool that could help you be more assertive. All you have to do is keep repeating your point of view, and not get distracted by the other person’s comments or arguments. For example:

    Friend: I dare you to steal some vodka from that shop?
    You: No thanks, I really don’t want to.
    Friend: Go on, don’t be such a baby.
    You: No, I don’t want to.
    Friend: You’d do it if you were really my mate.
    You: No, I just don’t want to do it.

    You could suggest something else to do instead. For example, you could offer to go to the cinema with your friend after school, instead of stealing from a shop. You should only suggest things that you’d feel happy to do.

    ‘Fogging’ is another useful way to be assertive and deal with negative comments. If someone is saying hurtful things about you, instead of getting upset or angry, you could try just agreeing in a really calm voice. This often makes the other person feel like there’s no point carrying on with their comments. You don’t have to believe what they are saying, but just pretending to agree might help to put them off. For example:

    Bully: Your new hair cut looks really rubbish.
    You: Yeah… OK, you might be right.
    Bully:Didn’t you hear me? I think you look like a loser.
    You: Maybe… you might think so
    Bully: Whatever…

    It’s important to remember that ‘Fogging’ isn’t always the right way to deal with a situation. For example, if someone is trying to make you do something that you really don’t want to do, it’s better to be assertive and say ‘no’ to them.

  • When can I use assertiveness skills?

    There are lots of situations where being assertive will really help. Some examples are:

    - Coping with peer pressure, for example when a friend is trying to force you to smoke, or take drugs.

    - Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

    - Standing up to people bully you or call you names.

    - Saying ‘no’ if someone is pressuring you to have sex or do something sexual that you don’t feel comfortable with.

    - Asking your parent or carer if you can go to a party.

    - Asking a teacher for more time to finish a project.

    - Saying ‘no’ when someone asks you for a favour.

    It’s important to think about keeping yourself safe. If you think being assertive with someone might make them angry, it might be better to find another way of getting your point across. For example, if a bully has threatened to hit you, it might be better to ask an adult for help, instead of standing up to them yourself.

  • I’ve tried being assertive but I get too scared

    Everyone finds it hard to say ‘no’ sometimes. Being assertive can feel scary, particularly the first time you try it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You can always ask a friend or trusted adult to practice a situation with you first. Sometimes acting ‘as if’ you feel really confident can help you feel stronger inside. Put your shoulders back, stand up straight, put your head up, and make good eye contact with the person you’re speaking to.

  • I’ve tried being assertive but I just get angry and end up shouting

    It can be really difficult to control your feelings when something is winding you up. Staying calm is the most important way to be assertive without getting aggressive. Pick a good time to have your conversation. Don’t try to start a difficult conversation if you are feeling tired, tense or hungry. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry, try and calm down by taking some slow deep breaths, and stopping to count to 10. If you still feel like you are losing control, it might be safer to walk away. For more help on coping with anger, have a look at the YoungMinds website.

  • I’ve tried being assertive but it didn’t work

    Being assertive doesn’t always mean that you’ll get what you want. Hopefully, by being assertive (instead of shouting and being aggressive, or just not saying anything) you will feel better about yourself even if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped. Talking to the other person assertively should also mean that they respect you and feel happier about what you’ve said.

  • Is it mean to say ‘no’ to my friends or parents?

    Being assertive means asking the other person to recognise your point of view and what you want. If you say how you feel assertively, then this is not being mean. You are just making sure that you get a chance to have your say.

  • What if my friends don’t like me anymore?

    Your friends might have got used to you always going along with what they want. If you suddenly start standing up for yourself, they might be surprised. They may try and make you go back to the way you used to be. It’s really important to keep using your assertiveness tools if this happens. Remember, you have the right to say how you feel. A good friend should respect this, even if it means that you disagree with them.

    There might be times when you choose not to say how you really feel, if you think it would be better to keep it to yourself. For example, if a friend asks you if you like their favourite band. If you really hate that band, you might choose to keep that to yourself. Another example would be if your friend tells you they don’t like another friend’s girlfriend. You might decide it’s not a good idea to tell them that you don’t like them either as you would feel bad talking about someone behind their back. The main thing is that you feel able to speak up for yourself when something feels really important.

  • Who can I talk to about being more assertive?

    Try and choose a person you feel comfortable with and who you think you can trust. This could be a youth worker, a teacher or someone in your family. You can always contact ChildLine by phone on 0800 1111 or talk to us online.

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Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

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Have you got something to say, or want to ask a question? Visit the message board to have your say.

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Being assertive 


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