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10 Simple (but Effective) Ways to Assert Yourself Without Being Rude or Hurtful.

Updated: Mar 6




Have you ever found yourself rehashing an interaction, wishing you had expressed your thoughts differently? Perhaps you agreed to a task that you didn't want to undertake or allowed someone's belittling comments to go unchallenged. This happens often, especially for those with a propensity to please others. While seemingly altruistic, this tendency often results in personal sacrifice and internal turmoil, leading to heightened anxiety, stress, and physical issues. If this resonates with you, it's essential to understand that assertiveness does not equate to rudeness. Speaking up does not necessitate hurting others. Here are 10 simple yet effective ways to communicate assertively without causing offense.

Communicate Intentionally

When it comes to speaking up for what matters to you, it's essential to do it deliberately and intentionally. First, get to the root of the problem and then decide what and why it bothers you. Doing this gives you a clear picture of what you want and don't want, making it easier to convey that to the other person. Choose your words wisely when confronting someone, and make sure you don't come across as accusatory. Most people will put up their defenses quickly if they feel like they are being accused of something. Stay neutral with your tone, and be clear with your concerns. You could even offer a suggestion to help remedy the problem at hand. For example, if your partner consistently leaves dirty clothing on the floor instead of the hamper, suggest, "If you could leave your clothes in the hamper each night, it would be such a big help to me, so I will know what to put in the wash." Doing it this way can still get your point across without causing hurt feelings or bad vibes between you and someone else.

Practice Self-Care

Let's face it. We're only given so many hours each week to commit to the things that are important to us. If you consistently spend all those precious moments bending over backward for others, it will wear you down and leave you feeling resentful and unhappy. For this reason, you need to get comfortable prioritizing how you spend your time and where you place your energy. But how do you begin to do that? First of all, take time to remember all the things that are important to you and prioritize them at the top of your list. Maybe you value downtime with your family every weekend or prefer "me time" to a night out with friends. When faced with a situation where you have to pick one or the other, remember that choosing yourself over someone else doesn't make you a bad person. It simply means you're taking care of your mental and physical health so that you can give more to others in the long run. Reminding yourself that it's ok to be selfish once in a while will make it that much easier to speak up during those moments that call for your voice to be heard.

Learn to Say No

If it's been a huge struggle for you to say the word, no, rest assured,  you're definitely not alone. In fact, saying no may be one of the most challenging things in the world, especially for those with people-pleaser tendencies. You don't want to rock the boat or make anyone mad, so you simply go through life being a yes person. The bad thing is, by not knowing how to say no enough, you are doing yourself and the world a disservice because you're sacrificing your wants, needs, and opinions for the happiness of others. While this may seem noble to those reaping the benefits of your "selflessness," all it does is cause you a huge inner struggle that ends in frustration and resentment. Start small and visualize how a situation could have gone differently if you had said no in the past. Then practice practice, practice. Saying no doesn't mean you have to be rude and hurtful. You can be polite but firm and still walk away knowing you did the right thing. And always remember, NO is a complete sentence!

Timing is Everything

Finding the right moment to voice your concerns is key when trying to find a solution that works for all parties involved. While you don't want to wait too long to discuss something that's on your mind, if you suddenly hit someone with a barrage of complaints out of the blue, it will most likely not end well. Before you go and put someone on the spot, consider when they would be more apt to listen and engage in a healthy, two-sided chat. For example, instead of confronting a co-worker in the office about an issue you have, arrange a meeting during a time that works best for both of you or make it a lunch date so you can chat over neutral ground. Handling the situation in this way will serve both parties in the best way possible. It's much easier for the issue to be heard and resolved when the other person doesn't feel blindsided by your statements.

Harness Your Body Language

Without saying a word, your body language will convey a clear message to others upon meeting. It's important to pay attention to what message you are sending. Do you stand up straight or slouch? Do you make direct eye contact with someone when talking or have problems meeting their gaze? Do you have your arms crossed in front of you, seemingly closed off to the other person, or are your hands down at your sides, showing that you are open and receptive to the conversation? Not only will your body language affect how others see you, but it will also impact how you feel about yourself. If you need a boost of confidence, try practicing some power poses at home – quit slouching, stand up straight, and make eye contact with yourself in the mirror. With a bit of practice, simple moves like this can help you feel more confident about yourself and appear more assertive when engaging with others.

Pick Your Battles

Part of standing up for yourself also means knowing when to avoid those battles that don't really matter. There will be many times in life when you don't need to waste your time, energy, or words on unnecessary confrontation. Those are the moments when you really need to evaluate the situation and weigh the pros and cons. What is the root of the problem? Is it really something that needs to be discussed? Will a solution cause a major difference in your life (or anyone else's)? Don't dive headfirst into every issue you encounter – be selective and only speak up on the problems that truly matter. While some situations require you to intervene and speak up, there will be just as many that you need to let roll off your shoulders. As you become more comfortable being assertive, it will get much easier to notice the difference between the two.

Assert Your Worth

The first step to demanding respect from others is to know without a doubt that you deserve it. Often, lifelong people pleasers come from a place of low self-esteem, so this can be a difficult concept to entertain right at first. However, it's so important to know that you deserve the same amount of respect that you've been giving to others, and it's time that you start demanding it. You have the same rights as everyone else – you are just as intelligent, talented, and deserving of love and respect. You have the right to your opinions. You have the right to make your voice heard. You have the right to fail and mess up and be human. However, no one has the right to be rude, mistreat, or take advantage of your kindness. Not one single human. Demanding respect doesn't take away the fact that you still respect others. It simply means you're valuing and protecting yourself for once as well. Understanding this is the first step to speaking up and speaking out against anyone who tries to disrespect your way.  

Speak in Silence

Sometimes, speaking up for yourself means not saying a single word. Remaining silent when someone expects you to be upset can be one of the most powerful messages you can ever send. The fact that you don't need verbal confrontation speaks volumes about how grounded you are in your own truths and values. You don't need to win an argument. You don't need someone to know that you're right. You simply choose to walk on in silence and let them think what they want. Understanding that you don't have to verbally engage in a situation for your message to speak volumes is golden and one of the smartest tactics you'll ever use. A quick tip? If you are feeling unsure or confused about what to say in the moment, silence is a great way to give yourself some extra time to think it through before you say something you might regret. Just like picking your battles, as you become more assertive, it will be easier to determine which situations deserve your words or simply that sweet sound of silence.

Cut the Excuses

There is nothing that says uncertainty and self-doubt, like a bunch of on-the-spot excuses when trying to get out of something you don't want to do. If you're going to get better at asserting yourself with confidence, drop the excuses and try adding the word NO to your vocabulary (See #3 above). Not only do we come up with excuses to avoid requests from others, but we also have a long list of excuses we use on ourselves. I can't build a business, run a marathon, or write a book – I'm not smart enough, fit enough, and stink at writing. Most all excuses are born out of fear – fear of failure, uncertainty, and a bunch of other limiting beliefs that hold you back. Recognizing that you constantly pull the excuse card is the first step in kicking that bad habit to the curb. Once you do this, it will help you feel more self-assured and confident when speaking up. Remember - you deserve to have your wants and needs heard and respected. Drop the excuses, start taking responsibility for that, and own it.

Go with Your Gut

We are all born with instincts that let us know when something feels right or, on the other hand, when something is way off. We can use these gut feelings as a compass to direct us through those situations where we're uncertain of what to do. It's so important to listen to that little voice in your head or that feeling in your stomach. Your gut usually knows what to do – the hard part is convincing your head, heart, and mouth. Try thinking back to a time in your life when someone crossed over one of your boundaries. It likely didn't sit well with you, but you may not have expressed your frustration because you didn't want to rock the boat. Still, there was that little nudge – that small voice telling you to speak up and express your feelings. So often, we tend to second guess ourselves and our gut feelings out of fear. However, remembering those instincts are there for a reason makes it much easier to speak up with courage the next time your gut tells you to.    

Speaking your mind may seem intimidating, especially if you're conditioned to prioritize others' needs over your own. But remember, silencing your voice serves no one - not the world, and certainly not you. It's time to let your ideas, opinions, and beliefs take flight. As you practice these tips, you'll find that speaking assertively will come naturally, leaving you wondering why you chose to remain silent. Assert yourself today, and embrace the remarkable transformation that follows.

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