Being Assertive

[ Building Healthy Relationships ] [ Being Assertive ] [ Handling Criticism ] [ Handling Pressure ]
[ Resolving Conflict ]

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

People often think they’re being assertive when in fact they’re being aggressive. But they’re not the same.

You’re being aggressive when:

  • You’re being hostile or blaming someone.
  • You threaten or demand.
  • You use sarcasm to try to make your point.
  • Your behaviour and comments are disrespectful to not only your feelings and rights, but also the feelings and rights of others.

You’re being assertive when:

  • You clearly express your feelings and your rights.
  • You speak and act in your own best interests but still consider the needs and rights of others.
  • You develop trust and equality in your relationships.
  • You ask for help when you need it.

How to Be Assertive

You can learn to be assertive using three steps. (These steps will start to blend together and sound more natural the more you practice.)

Let’s say you agree to pick up your partner in the morning before classes – your partner is always late which makes you late for your morning classes. What should you do?

STEP 1: Describe the Situation

Describe what happened. Give only the facts.
“Since I have started picking you up to go to school, I am late for my morning classes”.

STEP 2: State How You Feel

Tell the person how their behaviour or action makes you feel (i.e., sad, angry or afraid) and why.  
“I feel anxious and frustrated when I am late for class. I feel I am being disrespectful when I walk into class late”.

STEP 3: State What You Need

Describe the action you need to see and a promise or commitment that it will happen.
I need you to be on time in the mornings so I am not late”.


  • Always remember to use “I want” or “I feel” statements. Saying “I want” instead of “You are” will keep you focused on your own feelings.
  • Try lowering the tension with humour. Lighten the tone of your voice and smile as you make your point.
  • Being assertive isn’t just for problem situations. Use these steps to compliment, support, and encourage someone you care about.

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