How To Be Assertive Without Upsetting Anyone

Learning how to be assertive gets a lot of bad press.

Perhaps you believe that if you are to create the life you want, full of purpose and intention, then at some point, you’re going to have to bulldoze your way through other people.  And if you’re someone who lacks a little confidence, then this may seem like a very scary idea.

Because many people think that if you are to be assertive, you need to be ‘full on’, very direct and perhaps a little pushy.  Or even hostile and rude.  As a result, many don’t feel that they want to be assertive because they worry that they will upset everyone around them.

So the life changes you desperately want to make to create a fulfilling life or the desire to follow your why may be hampered.  Or sadly, stop altogether.

But nothing could be further from the truth because to be assertive means something else entirely.  And it definitely doesn’t mean setting out to upset everyone around you.

When you learn how to be assertive, you are equipping yourself with an important life skill of effective, healthy communication.  I would even go as far as to say that you’re connecting with a super-power.

Learn how to be assertive and unleash your superpower

Assertiveness is all about mutual respect and effective communication

What Is Assertiveness?

According to Psychology Today assertiveness is

“…A social skill that relies heavily on effective communication while simultaneously respecting the thoughts and wishes of others.”

Did you notice how they call it a social skill and how the other person’s thoughts and wishes are respected?  So, already we can see how this is not about supporting conflict or aggression or being a bossy pants.

When you learn how to be assertive, you can clearly and respectfully communicate to others your:

  • Wants
  • Needs
  • Position
  • Boundaries

What you are doing is letting others know where you stand in a controlled way.

Okay, some people may not like that.  For a start, they might not agree with you.  But seriously, this is their issue, not yours.  We all have a right to voice our own opinion, but it doesn’t mean another person has to accept it.

When you are assertive, you recognise this and don’t let it worry you.

Assertiveness And You

When you learn how to be assertive, you take care of yourself by looking out for yourself.

There are different ways to be assertive, which include being able to: 

  • Ask for you want or need respectfully
  • Say “No” without being wracked with guilt
  • Speak your mind openly
  • Release yourself from the responsibility for the other person’s response

After all, you have a right to your feelings.

But a couple of points to remember are to:

Use “I” statements when speaking, and don’t apologise for your feelings or needs.

For more help with asking for what you want, you might find this article: How To Overcome Fear And Ask For What You Want helpful

how to be assertive and get your point across politely

Being assertive is all about how you position yourself, it's not about finger pointing and making jibes

Getting Your Point Across

Hopefully, we’ve established that you can definitely learn how to be assertive without being rude. Tact is a thing. So is delivery and how you get your point across.

How you state your needs can make a difference in how it’s received. So you can avoid any nastiness; you’re neither aggressive nor rude.

Using “I” statements when you talk about your needs helps prevent the person you are speaking to understand that you are stating your needs.  You are not placing blame on them.

Unfortunately, at times people may take assertiveness as rudeness when it’s not. But remember, this is not your responsibility. So if you stay calm, keep it positive and constructive, but speak your needs, you take any aggression out of the equation.

Practice Practice

Assertiveness comes easy for some.  But if you are starting to learn how to be assertive, it can be an anxiety-inducing challenge.

The thing is, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So if being assertive does not come naturally to you, start small. Practice stating your opinions in non-contentious situations first.

For example, I’m sure like me, you get a lot of cold calls about changing supplier for mobile phone, energy etc.  Not only are they highly annoying, but it’s also so easy to get drawn into a conversation when all you want to say no.  But somehow, you feel that just saying no would be rude. 

Here’s what I do.  I clearly state that I’m happy with my current supplier and will not be making changes, but thank you for the call. 

In the vast majority of cases, the caller says okay, and you can terminate the call. However, sometimes they try another tactic: Are you not interested in saving money? or some other scripted phrase to pull on your guilt strings.  Boy, they can be persistent! 

In this situation, I calmly repeat the same sentence again. Then, if need be, I repeat it again, after which I feel entirely comfortable hanging up on the basis that they are being rude in not listening to me.

practice first and build up your ability to be a prima ballerina

A dancer is not a prima ballerina over night. Just as you would practice any other skill, the more often you practice being assertive the better you get

More Practice

Here’s another example of how to be assertive:

Some time ago, you and your partner decided that you would go on a date night every Friday night to spend more time together.  This has been going on for a while.  But the evening is not as much fun as it used to be because you feel as if you are stuck in a rut.

Rather than just go with the flow for fear that you will upset them (which could build up resentment in you – never a good thing), you could suggest making a small change.

Explain to your partner that this week you would like to do something different.  You still want to spend some time together, but rather than do what you have been doing, you have a suggestion.  The secret here is to have an alternative, don’t just say you want to do something different.  Without an alternative, you’ll end up doing exactly what you were hoping to change.

Remember to use ‘I’.  So you could say something along the lines of:

Hey, I’m looking forward to spending time with you, but I would like to try something different this week.  I would like to … – here you insert what you would like to do.  Hopefully, your partner will go along with it.  If not, an excellent way to really get your point across is to say, ‘this is really important to me’. 

Here, you are assertively stating your need.  But you’re not aggressive or confrontational.

If you don’t manage to get them to change, don’t worry – and certainly don’t beat yourself up about it.  You can simply wait for another opportunity to practice again.

When you practice, you will gain confidence as you go. Honestly, you will gain so much.

The Backbone In How To Be Assertive

Another way you can learn to be assertive is to connect with your why. 

When you align with your why and know who you truly are and what you stand for, it gets easier to state your wants and needs.

Your why is the roadmap for your life.  The way you can connect with what matters to you on a deep level.  As a result, you will know your boundaries and beliefs on bigger issues and be ready to peacefully and proactively assert those needs.

Believe me, when you know yourself well, you are truly empowered.

when you learn how to be assertive you practice good not bad behaviour

listening is a key skill when you are learning how to be assertive

Behaviour To Avoid

When you learn how to be assertive, please ensure that you avoid these behaviours as they will undermine what you are looking to achieve.

Donts - sorry to get bossy, but please don't adopt these practices

  • Place blame on other people – this is a sure-fire way to create conflict
  • Share your wants and needs in a confrontational or aggressive manner.  Peace and calm are far more effective.  Other people tend to either fight back or switch off if you are aggressive
  • Yell or shout as you will undermine what you are trying to achieve, which could be interpreted as bullying behaviour.
  • Be unwilling to hear the other person out; remember the mutual respect code.  Everyone has a right to their opinion.  You might disagree, but do give them the courtesy of listening.

Final Thoughts On How To Be Assertive Without Upsetting Anyone


Diplomacy rules the day. 

When you get aggressive, you create tension in yourself and others which can lead to stress.  Also, understand that you can’t force someone to respect your assertive requests and behaviour.

You know what is best for you, and only you can decide what to do if your requests are not honoured.

 Above all, stay true to your integrity and values. 

Cheering you on with getting your needs met!

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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