“The difference between being assertive and aggressive is how our words and behaviors affect the rights and well being of others.” Sharon Anthony Bower
Different Ways to Assert Yourself
There are many types of assertions, the template above is just a start. The examples below are hardly exhaustive, it is just to give you a sense of the different ways to be assertive and hold your boundaries.
Sometimes even when you assert yourself and hold your boundaries, the people in your life might not respect them. Robert Bolton (1979) shares with us that part of being assertive and holding boundaries might be:
Selective Inattention – ignoring unwanted behavior if it is a one time occurrence
Temporary Withdrawl – taking time away from a relationship that doesn’t respect your boundaries
Permanent Withdrawl – ending a relationship because your boundaries aren’t respected
Think about this as an order of progression. You assert your boundaries, if they aren’t respected you can ignore the other persons behavior and assert yourself again. If this person continues to step on and not respect your boundaries you might need to take some time apart. If that behavior continues, you might need to end that relation. This can happen with friends, partners, co-workers, and even family.
A basic act of being assertive is simply saying “no”. Saying no without little white lies or justifying why you are saying no takes some practice. Have you ever been invited out with friends but didn’t want to go? Did you make something up? “I’m busy” when really you just don’t want to go out. Being assertive in that moment looks like “I really appreciate the offer, and I hope you invite me in the future, but no, I just need some me time”.
The last type of assertion we will look at is asking for help. Heidi Grant’s ted talk describes how to ask for help in the TedTalk below.
If you are interested in exploring more information about being assertive, here is a great article on Psychology Today – 4 ways to be assertive without alienating others