How To Be More Assertive – Part 2

How To Be More Assertive – Part 2

by Dr Emma Gray - 18th March, 2015

In the first part of this blog we looked at the attitudes necessary to be assertive; confidence and self-esteem and knowing what you want. In addition to these attitudes there are six specific skill needed to be assertive, this blog will look at the first three:

1. Listening to others
Being assertive involves getting your needs met without preventing others from doing the same. This leads to much more fulfilling and satisfying relationships and as a result minimises mental health problems likes anxiety and depression.

In order to achieve this balance in our relationships we must be aware of how people we interact with are thinking, feeling and most importantly what they need from us. To do this we need to listen.

The biggest obstacle to listening is our own thoughts, feelings and needs or as counselling psychologists call it, our internal world.

Being in touch with ourselves (our thoughts, feeling and needs) greatly calms and reduces the noise that our internal worlds can create, for some this can be achieved simply by spending time trying to understand what is going on for us, for others yoga and mindful meditation can be useful, for others formal therapy may be necessary.

2. Using the ‘unselfish I’
Once you have clarified what you need (see part 1 of this blog), state what that is clearly e.g. “I need to leave work today at 5pm”. If you are not used to expressing yourself in this way or are uncertain as to whether you deserve to get your needs met, this straightforward way of communicating may cause you some anxiety.

However, behaving as if you believe you and your needs have value will over the course of time influence your actual beliefs. So practice asking for what you need in this way and you will find that soon enough not only will it become easier to do so but it will have positive knock on effect on your self-esteem and confidence.

3. Sticking to the point
Anthony Flew (a philosopher) used to talk about “the ten leaky buckets argument’. This is the idea of putting forward lots of weak arguments in the hope that they will eventually add up to one good one. 1 good bucket is always better than 10 leaky ones, so decide what you want and express this clearly.

For example “Thank you for thinking of me but I can’t make it tonight, I have something else planned”. If your response is not accepted repeat yourself using a slightly abridged version of your first message e.g. “I would have like to, but tonight is out for me”.

Click below to navigate to the first and third part of this multi part article, Part 3 of this blog will look at a further 3 assertiveness skills.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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