Posted by: silverliningsblog | February 17, 2016

The art of assertiveness

AssertivenessHave you ever had a conflict with someone, and wished you had handled it better? Do you know how to speak your truth without hurting others?

Human relationships can be challenging. We are all very unique beings, and we often want different things. It may seem easier sometimes to avoid conflict by just going along with what others want. And then complaining about it. Or maybe you intimidate others to get what you want. But neither of these approaches is healthy.

Having truly healthy relationships with others means learning how to express yourself assertively and gracefully, while showing respect for how others feel as well. So assertiveness is not about selfishness, or about selflessness. It’s about striking a healthy balance between you and others.

To understand this better, let’s take a look at the difference between being aggressive, passive-aggressive, passive and assertive.


Aggression means making your own feelings, opinions, needs and desires more important than anyone else’s.

It can show up in a variety of ways:

  • expressing yourself in an angry way (yelling, raising your voice)
  • threatening someone (either verbally or physically)
  • intimidating someone (e.g. standing in their personal space)
  • being pushy with your requests (not acknowledging the other’s point of view)
  • talking over or interrupting people

When you are aggressive, you selfishly push your own will onto another (usually someone you perceive as weaker). While it may appear in the short term to get you what you want, in the long term it will cause people to dislike you and not want to be near you.

“Aggression is loud, angry, and ugly. An aggressive individual wants to wear down the other person’s resolve by being imposing, threatening, and obnoxious until his or her demands are agreed to.” —Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels


Passive-aggressiveness is when you are afraid to express your true feelings. So you appear to go along with something someone else wants, then do one of the following:

  • complain about someone behind their back
  • talk sarcastically (instead of saying what you really mean)
  • withhold something as a punishment
  • do the opposite of what you said you’d do
  • sabotage the other person’s efforts

When you’re passive-aggressive, you may think you’re avoiding conflict. But your confusing behaviours make people feel they can’t trust you, and in the end create more conflict than if you had just said how you really felt.

“Whenever we avoid conflict by keeping our feelings to ourselves, we do ourselves and others a disservice. This is a form of dishonesty and manipulation. We’re trying to control the other person’s reactions by controlling what we tell them.” —Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels


Passivity is when you don’t acknowledge your own feelings, opinions, needs and desires, and instead go along meekly with what everyone else says, wants and does.

When you are passive, you:

  • don’t say how you really feel
  • avoid situations that might cause you anxiety
  • agree to things you don’t really want to do
  • feel resentful and bitter
  • never get what you want

When you’re passive, you make yourself a powerless victim. You allow others to take advantage of you, and betray your own innermost feelings. While it may seem to be the “easy way out,” in the end, you will always come in last and people won’t respect you.

“Never do anything unless you want to. Either don’t do the action, or go meditate and pray until you can shift your mind-set to one of happiness toward it.” —Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels


Assertiveness is when you know you are equal to others and clearly communicate your feelings, opinions, needs and desires confidently, yet peacefully.

Being assertive allows you to:

  • acknowledge your own feelings
  • speak your truth in a respectful way
  • say no when you don’t want to do something (without justifying)
  • set healthy boundaries (without apologizing)
  • ask for what you want

When you’re assertive, you treat yourself and others as equals. You try your best to balance your needs, thoughts and desires with those of others. While assertiveness doesn’t guarantee all your relationships will work out perfectly, it is the best way to have healthy, respectful relationships with everyone around you…including yourself.

“Assertiveness means that you’re aware of your feelings and opinions and that you state them to yourself and others in a way that respects other people’s rights. An assertive person is kind, peaceful, and gentle yet never apologizes for his or her feelings, because feelings are to be honored and respected…You are one and equal with others…You have as much right to be happy as other people.” —Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels

What assertiveness looks like

So let’s look at an example. Let’s say your boss asks you at the last minute to work late on a Friday. Problem is, you already have plans to meet friends for dinner.

Here are some possible responses:

  • Passive – You do what your boss asks, bailing on your friends and missing out on the fun.
  • Passive-aggressive – You do what your boss asks, then complain about what a jerk he is to your colleagues.
  • Aggressive – Fed up at his thoughtlessness, you blow up at your boss and tell him he’s being unfair, then storm out of the room.
  • Assertive – You calmly tell your boss you have plans already, but would be happy to help him out by staying late on Monday.

Importance of assertiveness

Assertiveness is key to feeling empowered and living the life you truly want with the people you value most.

Assertiveness is not about changing others. It’s about taking responsibility for your response. When you are assertive, you own and express your feelings instead of projecting them onto others or blaming people for how you feel. You clear the air with others when you’re upset and explain how you feel (saying “I feel angry…” instead of “you made me feel angry”). You allow others to feel differently and express themselves too. You look for win-win solutions. This makes your relationships with others deeper and more authentic, because people get to know the real you, while you get to know and understand them better.

You also take 100% responsibility for yourself and don’t expect anyone to rescue you. You do your best to solve your own problems and meet your own needs. If you need help, you ask for what you need and want politely. If someone can’t help, you keep looking for other solutions instead of insisting it come from one person. This allows you to fully realize just how powerful and creative you are, and that you can accomplish virtually anything if you keep looking for answers.

Being assertive also means that you set healthy boundaries with others. This means setting healthy limits with others and teaching them how you want to be treated. (For example, standing up for yourself and refusing to tolerate abuse of any kind.)

And, assertiveness means that you consciously choose reciprocal relationships, where there is a balance between giving and receiving, talking and listening, supporting and being supported. You stop rescuing people and assuming responsibility for their lives. Instead, you choose people who are responsible for themselves and fully capable of an equal and balanced relationship with you.

Assertiveness takes practise, and becomes easier with time. For starters, try this week to only agree to what you really, truly want to do. This will require saying no sometimes, without justifying why. After all, it’s your right to choose what’s best for you. Try it, and see how it goes!

Do you have a story to share about a time you were assertive? What does assertiveness mean to you? I would love to hear your ideas! Please share your thoughts below, or email me at

Karen Strang AllenKaren Strang Allen helps single women who are tired of unhealthy relationships change their patterns, design a life they love, and become a magnet for the man of their dreams! She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Karen helps her clients re-discover their strengths and passions, envision an exciting future, and take action to create a life they love. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources at

Ask for a free consult today!


  1. […] us are taught how to assert ourselves and create healthy boundaries by parents who are themselves assertive. But many of us are shown unhealthy examples due to abuse, neglect, or simply a lack of parenting […]

  2. […] Be assertive. The first step is to be assertive and establish a healthy boundary. Calmly tell the other person that their tone of voice/approach […]

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