How to Be Assertive

Assertiveness is a direct, honest and respectful way of behaving and interacting with others. It is seen as one of the most desirable forms of human behaviour as it leads to honest and healthy relationships. As a Legal Secretary, the ability to be assertive will help you greatly in your career to communicate effectively with your colleagues and boss.

There are generally three types of human behaviour – non-assertive, aggressive and assertive.

Non-assertive behaviour is submissive and indirect. It can give a message of inferiority by allowing the wants and needs of others to be more important than our own. A person behaving non-assertively will lose while allowing others to win.

Aggressive behaviour can be direct or indirect, honest or dishonest, so it is a little more complex. It communicates an impression of disrespect and superiority. Aggressive people put their wants and needs before others by not allowing them a choice.

Assertive behaviour is, as mentioned above, direct and honest. It communicates an impression of self-respect and respect for others. Those who are assertive treat their wants and needs equally to those of others. An assertive person can create win-win situations by listening, influencing and negotiating. This leads to successful relationships.

It is possible to become more assertive by taking a look at your beliefs, goals, expectations, word choices and body language, and making changes. Developing assertiveness requires thinking assertively, feeling confident and behaving positively. Becoming assertive may require you to change how you think about yourself, other people and life in general.

Have you noticed that you sometimes succeed or fail because you knew you would? This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. We often succeed or fail because we subconsciously think that will be the outcome. Our lives are full of examples like this. Some people approach situations with a negative outlook and experience problems and failures, whilst others approach the same situation positively and succeed. Expectations, values and attitudes are powerful influences on actual outcomes. These are communicated through our words, expressions, posture, eye contact, tone of voice and behaviour.

To encourage yourself to behave assertively, it is beneficial to practice positive mental imagery. This is an exercise requiring conscious effort, where you can influence your subconscious mind. By inserting ideas into your conscious and relaxed mind, you can open your subconscious to receive the input.

Try to practice thinking and saying the following statements. You can even write the words on cards and pin them up at home.

  • It’s all right for my wants and needs to be as important as others.
  • I can express my needs openly and honestly.
  • It’s all right to have feelings and express them.
  • I can admit mistakes or say ‘I don’t know.’
  • I can allow others to make mistakes.
  • I will have reasonable expectations of others.
  • It’s all right to trust others.

If you practice these statements whilst in a relaxed state, then they will be absorbed into your subconscious mind more easily. Try thinking or saying them after you have taken a bath or just before you go to sleep each night.

Assertiveness is a win-win approach and philosophy. To build successful relationships, you must accept responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts and behaviour, and express your feelings in an open and honest manner.

Learn to think, talk and act assertively, and you will see some positive outcomes in your working and personal life.