How to be Assertive Without Being Rude

Become more assertive about what you need and improve your connections with others

If you struggle with people pleasing, you probably don’t know how to be assertive without being rude. Here are 5 steps to mastering assertive communication. Check out the video, or keep reading to learn how to speak up for what you need and build trust!

What is assertive communication?

Assertive communication means treating the needs of everyone involved as equally important, including your own. It’s that sweet spot where you are both kind and respectful towards others, while also speaking up for what you need. When you learn how to communicate assertively, you improve your confidence AND your relationships.

I’m sharing the 5 elements that have helped me become more assertive while also improving the relationships with people in my life.

How to Speak Assertively: An Overview

  • Assertive communication means treating the needs of everyone involved as equally important, including your own. It’s that sweet spot where you are both kind and respectful towards others, while also speaking up for what you need.
  • When you learn how to communicate assertively, you improve your confidence AND your relationships.
  • How to be assertive in your personal life and at work:
  1. You have to believe that your needs are important.
  2. Your tone is everything. You want to convey respect for others’ needs, as well as confidence in what you’re saying
  3. Focus on a common goal you have with the other person
  4. Show the impact of the problem you’re experiencing on your common goal. Help others understand how what you’re bringing up affects your ability to achieve that goal
  5. Ask solution-oriented questions to help you come up with an answer together

A People Pleaser’s Guide to Being More Assertive

Being assertive can be really difficult, especially if you’re someone who’s a people pleaser or if you’re worried about stirring the pot.

In this article, I’m covering the five key elements of assertive communication. This will help you speak up confidently and get what you want, while also improving the relationships with people in your life.

Now, I’m speaking about this because I recently had a really positive experience at work being assertive. I’m not going to go too much into the details in this video. I’m actually going to be putting out a separate video, a case study to go into the details of why that instance works so well.

But what you need to know in this video is that I was able to be assertive, and I was able to get what I needed. AND I was also able to not only maintain, but actually improve my relationships with my boss by showing her that her needs are equally important to mine.

Now, in your life, you might be struggling with being assertive either in work or in your personal life, or in both areas. Maybe you’re not getting enough time with your significant other because they’re always on their phone. Or maybe you’re frustrated because your roommate isn’t picking up after themselves. Maybe there are some boundaries that you need to set with friends or family members in your life. Or maybe at work, you have too much on your plate and you need to give feedback and say no to some things. Or you need to ask a coworker to do something, nut you’re afraid of asking people to do things.

What does it mean to be assertive?

If you struggle with speaking up and asking for what you need, it’s worth reframing what being assertive is. Being assertive is not being aggressive. Being assertive is not stirring the pot. It’s not causing drama. It’s not putting your needs above other people’s needs. And it’s not selfish.

What assertive communication is, is treating the needs of everyone involved as equally important, including your own. That means being respectful of everybody involved while also constantly expressing what you need.

The five elements of how to be assertive:

1. You have to believe your needs are important

This is probably the most important element of assertive communication. You have to believe that you deserve to be heard. You have to believe that you deserve to speak up, and that your needs are just as important as anybody else’s.

And by the way, people have no way of knowing what it is that you need. And you’re the only person who can really speak up for yourself and accurately represent to the world, “hey, this is what is or isn’t working for me.”

There are all sorts of strategies for assertive communication, and I’m going to get to some of some of them in this video. But you have to first believe that you deserve to be heard, that you’re an equal party, that your needs are important, and your needs deserve to be met like anybody else’s. Once you have that foundational knowledge down, it becomes a lot easier to actually implement the rest of the strategies.

2. Your tone is everything

What you say is important, but how you say it is even more important. So it’s really important to convey confidence so that other people can believe you and take what you’re saying seriously. Sure, you can fake it till you make it all you want, but at the end of the day, remember that first key element that we talked about: You have to believe that your needs are important. That’s also going to help you set the right tone.

Now, if you believe that your needs are important, you’ve decided “you know what? This is important enough for me to speak out about,” then there are two things you need to convey in your tone. One is confidence, and the other one is respect for other people.

If you’re a people pleaser, I’m just going to assume that you don’t have too much trouble with conveying respect for other people. Where you probably struggle is that sense of confidence and speaking up for issues that are coming up for you.

Here’s an exercise that you can do in order to convey confidence in your tone.

Go up to the mirror and say to the mirror, “one plus one equals two.” Say it a few times. “One plus one equals two. One plus one equals two.”

How do you say it? Notice that you’re not wavering. You’re not being wishy washy. You’re not, speaking quietly. It’s something that you can say confidently because you know it to be an absolute truth. You’re confident in what you’re saying, so you sound confident.

Once you’ve said “one plus one equals two” a few times, start using that tone (when you’re still in front of the mirror) to practice, asking what you want.

“Hey, Mom, I need you to stop calling me in the middle of the workday to check out on me. I’d love to talk to you after work, but during the workday, it’s really disruptive.”

“Hey, boss, there’s a little bit too much on my plate right now. I really need help taking some things off.”

When you hear yourself practicing saying something that you know is an absolute truth, like “one plus one equals two” or “two plus two equals four,” whatever you want to say — when you hear yourself using that tone, you can then take that tone and practice applying it to whatever situation that you’re working on when you’re trying to be assertive.

Other tips on confident tones

There’s also some language things that you can use, for example, saying “thank you” instead of “sorry.” So instead of saying, “Hey, I’m sorry, this is taking up so much time to figure out,” saying “thank you for prioritizing this important issue” or “thank you for taking the time to help us resolve this.”

It’s really great to practice what you’re saying in front of the mirror. Or practice with a friend or significant other or somebody that you trust to get some feedback, to get that practice using your confident tone.

And remember, you have good reasons to be confident. You’re making sure everyone’s needs, including yours and including the other parties, are met and not only are you helping make sure everybody’s getting their needs met, you’re also helping everybody reach a common goal.

And we’re going to talk about that in the next key element.

3. Focus on shared goals

So this can be a common goal, a mutual goal, shared goals that you and the other party involved have.

If you’re a people pleaser, it can be really hard to speak up for yourself because it can feel like you’re only looking out for yourself or you’re being selfish. What really helps me is to take a step back from the situation and figure out what is my shared goal with the person or the people involved.

At work, this might be you and your boss and your team all want a project delivered on time without compromising quality. If you have roommates, this might be making sure everybody’s comfortable enough living together so that you can continue living together and reaping the benefits of living together. With your partner or maybe even with your friends, it might be making sure everybody involved feels comfortable expressing their needs so that their relationship can work in the long run.

For me, when I can reframe something that feels like my problem to something that impacts a shared common goal, it makes it a lot easier for me to be able to bring it up because it doesn’t feel like it’s selfish. It feels like, “hey, I’m actually looking out for the team by bringing this to everyone’s attention.”

An added bonus is that you’re more likely to get what you need when you do this because you are advocating for a solution where everybody wins, where everybody gets their needs met.

4. Show the impact of the problem on that common goal.

Once you realize what that common goal is, your job becomes to communicate any risks and issues that are getting in the way of everyone’s ability to get to that common goal. Sounds a lot friendlier than just saying, “hey, this is what I need,” right?

Help the other person understand the impacts of the problem that you’re seeing on everybody’s ability to get to that goal. And also help them understand how your suggestion is going to help get everybody back on track with your friend.

This might be, “hey, these are my boundaries. And I’d really like you to respect them so that we can continue having a really healthy and positive relationship.” That might sound weird, so tweak it to however sounds normal to you, but you get the gist.

At work, it might be, “if this doesn’t happen, then that’s going to be the impact on the project.”

“When you__, I feel___” statements work really well in this situation. So for example, you can say “when you look at your phone all day when we’re talking to each other, I feel disregarded and ignored. And I’m worried that if we don’t resolve this issue that it’s going to damage our friendship or our relationship in the long run.”

So show that impact and be sure to check out my case study on how I did this for a more in-depth example.

5. Ask solution oriented questions

It’s really important to make sure that the other person involved is helping to come up with the solution, that they’re engaged in coming up with a solution to the problem that you presented, because otherwise it’s going to be really hard for you to get the buy in from them to actually execute on that solution.

And remember, assertive communication is treating everybody’s needs as equally important.

So you have to also make sure that this other person feels engaged in coming up with the solution.

If you need somebody to make a decision, give them really clear cut options and impacts of those options. For example, at work, this might be, “Hey boss, these three tasks can’t all be done by Friday with the time allotted. So which of them would you like me to prioritize working on?”

If you need the other person to do something, ask them if the solution works for them or when they can have it done by, or if there’s anything that you can help with to make sure that this happens. So this might be, “Hey, what do you think you’ll be able to vacuum the house by?” or “is there anything I can help with to make sure that the living room is clean by the time our guests arrive tomorrow?”

If you need someone to change a behavior that they’re doing, ask if your suggestion is reasonable and also if there’s anything that you need to do on your end to help come up with a solution. So if you’re not getting enough time with your significant other without screens, you might ask, “how can we make sure to get enough quality screen free time together each week?”

Involve the other person in the solution, so ask solution oriented questions, engage them so that the two of you can, or however many of you can, come up with a solution that works for everybody and everybody’s happy with.

Looking for more support?

Now, if you’re somebody who really struggles to speak up for yourself and be assertive, be sure to download my free guide on how to stop people pleasing. It includes ten tips for how to speak confidently for yourself so you can get what you need and also improve the relationships in your life. The link is in the description and I’ll also post it in the comments below.

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Let me know what questions or comments you have in the comments below. I hope this video was helpful and I’ll see you in the next one.

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Become more assertive about what you need and improve your connections with others

2 thoughts on “How to be Assertive Without Being Rude”

  1. Pingback: Being Assertive at Work: A Real-Life Case Study - Tali Shlafer

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