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. 

What does it mean to be assertive?

It 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. But everyone has the right to say how they feel and ask for what they need.

5 ways to be assertive:

  • practise what you want to say first, or try writing it down to prepare yourself
  • act calm and confident by standing up straight and not fidgeting
  • make eye contact
  • say what you want, clearly and politely
  • don’t apologise when asking for something you need.

When to be assertive

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

  • coping with peer pressure, for example when a friend is trying to force you to smoke, or take drugs
  • breaking up or ending a relationship
  • standing up to people who bully you or call you names
  • saying ‘no’ if someone is pressuring you to have sex or do something sexual 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 is trying to make you do something illegal.

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 someone has threatened to hit you, it might be better to ask an adult for help, instead of standing up to them yourself.

How you can stand up to friends

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 skills 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.

Ways to feel prepared

Put your shoulders back, stand up straight, put your head up, and make good eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. Check out our page about building confidence and self-esteem.

Be careful what you say

It can be really difficult to control your feelings. 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.

Saying nasty things or swearing can also make situations worse. It’s important to stand up for what’s right for you without being aggressive or intimidating. Check our page on coping with anger.

Build your confidence

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 practise a situation with you first. Sometimes acting ‘as if’ you feel really confident can help you feel stronger inside. 

Get tips on building your confidence.

Pick your moment

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 better to walk away.