Assertiveness: An Overview

BU Logo
BetterUp Studios
Read

3 min

Person raising hand at concert

Assertiveness, or the ability to stand up for your convictions in a positive and calm manner, is an invaluable skill. While some people are naturally assertive, the truth is that assertiveness is a skill that can be developed.

Assertiveness vs. Aggression vs. Passivity

To better understand assertiveness, it is helpful to think of it as a middle ground between aggressive and passive behaviors.

Aggression.

Many people confuse being aggressive with being assertive, but the two are completely different. Assertiveness requires you to consider other people’s thoughts, rights, and desires just as much as your own. Aggression, on the other hand, means that you fail to recognize the perspectives of other people.

Passivity.

While being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, neither does it mean being passive. Many people act passively out of a desire to be liked by others. The problem with this approach, however, is that others often end up making decisions without your input.

Tips for How You Can Be More Assertive

Being assertive means neither putting others down nor letting others walk all over you. It is standing up for yourself in a respectful way. 

  1. Express your thoughts, emotions, and wishes openly. Let the other person know where you are coming from.
  2. Ask the other person to do the same. Even if you disagree, remember to respect their thoughts and feelings. Try to find common ground.
  3. Remember to listen, admit when you are wrong, and practice self-control. Being assertive does not mean insisting that you’re right. Don’t forget that communication is a two-way street and try to keep your interactions as positive as possible.

While assertiveness can help you in almost any part of your life, it is especially important in the workplace. Call on your assertiveness at work to get more satisfaction out of your career.

BetterUp Studios
BetterUp Studios creates and curates research-backed content, activities, and tools to help people everywhere pursue their lives with greater clarity, purpose, and passion.

Recommended Resources

Card image cap

Finding the Right Tone for Your "No"

With this activity, practice using assertive language in a tone of voice that will help you to get your message across without alienating others.

10 min

Card image cap

Conflict as Opportunity

In this article, discover why you should view conflict as a learning opportunity rather than a form of competition.

4 min