A megaphone.

Have you ever had a conversation where you felt you should have spoken up? Is it hard for you to say no? Do you struggle with being firm and direct because you want to please everyone around you?

Being assertive helps ensure your voice is heard. It's a skill that will allow you to deal with various situations at work and personal life.

Assertive vs. Aggressive

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Often, people will confuse being assertive with being aggressive. However, they are two distinct things.

Assertive is being forthright about your wants and needs while still considering the rights, needs, and wants of others.

Aggressive is doing what is in your own best interest without regard for the rights, needs, and feelings or desires of others.

Anne Shoemaker, executive coach for women

Learn to be assertive without being aggressive by following the steps below.

1. Know Your Worth, Show Confidence

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Understand what your strengths are and what you bring to the table. What you feel, need, and desire are just as important as someone else, but not more.

Take the initiative to ask for what you want instead of waiting for someone to recognize it. This will help others know what you want and ensure your needs are heard and considered, even if they are not immediately actioned.

2. Rehearse What You Want to Say

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Being assertive is like any other skill, so practicing what and how you want to ask for your needs will help build your confidence. Practicing will "help you feel more comfortable and help you remain calm and polite" when you have to speak up.

You can write down what you want to say, and how you'll say it, then practice it, either by yourself or in front of friends and family members.

Practicing in front of others will give you the additional confidence you need when speaking to others at work. It's also a good way to get immediate feedback to help improve your argument.


What are some ways you can practice being more assertive? Select all that apply.

3. Use "I" Statements And Learn to Say "No"

Using "I" statements is a great way to highlight your needs without pointing fingers. For example, instead of saying "you need to stop," try saying "I would prefer if we..."

Watch the video below to learn more about "I" statements:

The word "no" can be a complete sentence in itself. Know your limits, and don't be afraid to say no when you really mean no.

To build your assertive skill, combine "no" with an "I". For example, "No, I won't be able to work on that," asserts your stance, but also provides an explanation.

4. You Can Only Control Your Own Behaviour

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Some people around you may react negatively when you assert yourself. Remember, you can only control your own behaviour in any situation and should never react like someone else. Remain calm, respectful, and empathetic to those around you.

There is nothing wrong with asserting your needs at work and advocating for what you want positively. Maintain professionalism by asserting your needs while showing respect to others. This approach ensures that your thoughts and opinions are heard, while considering how it may affect others.

5. Be Open to Feedback

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Receive feedback, negative or positive, without getting defensive or angry. Use feedback to help improve yourself.

For example, you should get feedback to improve how you present your needs if you're learning to be more assertive. When you receive constructive criticism about how you assert yourself, take time to reflect and understand the other person's point of view.

Anytime you work on developing a skill, it takes time and effort. Being open to feedback will allow you to learn and grow.


A colleague gives you positive feedback on your recent assertiveness in team discussions. How should you respond?

Let's Practice!

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Sarah, a dedicated and hardworking professional, has worked at a company for three years. Despite her excellent performance, she often finds herself overwhelmed with additional tasks outside her job description.

Sarah has recently realized the importance of being more assertive to maintain a healthy work-life balance and ensure she is recognized for her contributions.

Sarah is assigned a new project that requires a significant time commitment. She knows her plate is already full of responsibilities, and taking on this additional task might lead to burnout.

Sarah uses the following techniques to address the situation:

A. Sarah writes down what she will say and rehearses it with a friend on the weekend.

B. She meets with her supervisor and listens to their perspective and feedback to find a mutually beneficial solution.

C. She learns tips and techniques to predict her supervisor's reaction so she can be better prepared for the conversation.

D. She lets her supervisor know, "I believe taking on this additional project might negatively impact my current work."


Which of the above techniques should Sarah apply in this situation to ensure she maintains a work-life balance? Select all that apply:

Take Action

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