Being assertive is often thought of as being aggressive, maybe even rude, impolite, and pushy. This is not it. Being assertive is also thought of as being confident and showing that confidence to others. This is partially right.  But assertiveness is more than this. Being assertive is about valuing yourself and not allowing yourself to be pushed around or bullied. This means that you can be polite and still be assertive. 

Assertiveness a Characteristic of Leadership

Being assertive is an important element of being a leader, and leadership is a trait or ability that most young people crave. Being a leader, being able to influence others, is based on being self-confident and, among other things, being assertive. It is in being assertive that one gains the respect of followers. 

How To Be More Assertive - Assertiveness a Characteristic of Leadership

What Does Being Assertive Entail?

To be assertive, you must not be always apologizing.  When you do wrong, or make a mistake, it is highly valuable to apologize for your wrongdoing or error.  This has nothing to do with being assertive.  However, some people use the expression “I am sorry” not to apologize, but to express empathy with others. For example, someone may have arrived late and missed out on some important information.  As this person shares his misfortune with a colleague, the colleague may be tempted to say, “I am sorry”.

But It’s Not the Colleague’s Fault

But it is not the colleague’s fault, and he or she had nothing to do with that person being late.  If the colleague continually expresses empathy with the words, “I am sorry,” this may give the impression that the colleague is apologizing for things for which he or she has no responsibility. This could lead to the person seeing his colleague as not being assertive, and wanting to take the blame for everything.  This may not be what the colleague wants to do, but this is how it may appear.  The person may see his colleague’s habit of always apologizing as somewhat annoying.

Replacing the Usual “I am Sorry”

By looking at how other people are perceived in the way they present themselves, you may want to make changes in how you present yourself. If you find yourself in this same predicament, instead of saying “I am sorry” as a way of empathizing, you may find an alternative in comforting the person by saying he or she may be able to make up what was missed. Or if you are the colleague and were present at the meeting that was missed, you may offer to share notes or information.

How To Be More Assertive - Replacing the Usual “I am Sorry”

Be Assertive by Appearing Confident

You may not be confident when you stand in front of a crowd to share some information.  But you can appear to be confident by being assertive. Here are a few points that you can follow. 

Displaying Confidence

Make good eye contact with the people with whom you are speaking. If you are at the front of a room, you may find it easier to look at several people across the room.  Rather than standing rigidly against a desk or a podium, walk around, while looking at your audience.  Speak in a clear and audible voice and complete your sentences before stopping, even if someone tries to interrupt you.  If someone interrupts you and you stop immediately, what you are actually saying to that person is that he or she has a greater right to be speaking than you do. When you eventually stop speaking, you may choose to deal with the interruption, or you may simply ask that any questions be held until the end of your talk. You may also find it useful to raise your voice if you are under the impression that someone at the back of the room may not be hearing you clearly.

How To Be More Assertive - Displaying Confidence

Be Assertive by Accepting Compliments

Many people find it difficult accepting compliments.  If you are given a compliment, it is appropriate to accept it without making excuses. You may find that rather than saying “Thanks”, and accepting the compliments, which is the appropriate thing to do,  you may try to deflect it from yourself in a show of humility. Be assertive and accept the compliment given.  If you worked in a team, it is proper to accept the compliments on behalf of the team.  By accepting compliments when these are given, you are accepting the valuing that others are bestowing on you and your team.

Being Assertive is Valuing Yourself

Remember, being assertive is about valuing yourself.  Do not allow yourself to be bullied, pushed around, disrespected, or devalued.  When someone does anything that attempts to devalue you in anyway, speak up for yourself.  When you are more assertive, you may find that you are shown greater respect and recognition as a person.  In the book, Leadership Beyond the Job: 30 Ways for Older Teens and Young Adults to Develop Effective Leadership Skills,  Shockness (2019) discusses the many characteristics that go into making a young person an effective leader in any situation.

References Shockness, Israelin (2019). Leadership Beyond the Job: 30 Ways for Older Teens and Young Adults to Develop Effective Leadership Skills. Vanquest Publishing. . This is book 1 of the series, Successful Youth Living.