How To Be More Assertive – Part 3

How To Be More Assertive – Part 3

by Dr Emma Gray - 19th March, 2015

The final part of this blog looks at 3 more skills essential to the skills of assertiveness.

4. Managing Criticism
Dealing with criticism is always harder if it mirrors your own criticism of yourself. Building your self-esteem and self-belief (see the first part of this blog) will help you not to be drawn into the criticism of others. So the first step in managing criticism is to build some self-belief.

Then consider:

i. What the criticism tells you about your critic i.e. are the comments constructive and aimed at helping you or does your critic have an agenda e.g. are they passing blame or responsibility, using you as a scapegoat or unfairly applying their own unrelenting standards to you.

ii. Is the criticism accurate? If the comments are constructive take responsibility for your part, apologise if necessary and/or thank your critic for their input, even if you do not feel very thankful.

This approach will help you to sidestep tension and so will feel empowering. Even if the critic has an agenda, check out whether there is something helpful hidden amongst their comments that you can use to develop or improve yourself.

5. Body Language
There is a physical aspect to assertive behaviour so use your body to back you up. Doing this will affect both how you feel and those around you. We communicate so much with our posture, eye contact, gestures and the distance that we place between ourselves and others.

So observe those around you and notice the actions of both those who are assertive and those who aren’t. As a general rule when we feel assertive our posture is open, our eye contact steady but not ‘starey’, our gestures fluid but gentle and we do not invade the personal space of others.

6. Saying ‘No’
When we feel anxious or our confidence is waning we can feel a pressure to say ‘yes’ when we would really like to say no. This leads us to over commit ourselves which ultimately interferes with us getting our needs met.

So first of all prioritise the demands on your time and be clear and realistic about what you can and can’t manage, then communicate this to others, stating in a straightforward but polite way when you cannot do something e.g. “I am so sorry but I the moment I cannot manage that”.

Assertive is a skill which if being learned for the first time as an adult takes patience with oneself and plenty of practice. However, once mastered it is a cornerstone for good mental health, protecting us from both anxiety and depression and enhancing our interpersonal relationships.

For more information about assertiveness contact the Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists at The British CBT & Counselling Service.

To recap the previous parts of this article, click below to navigate.


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.


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