Why be assertive? 4 major benefits of assertive behaviour

Assertiveness is an excellent skill both for managing your relationships with others and managing your relationship with yourself. It takes a great deal of effort to become assertive and it does not happen overnight. In a sense, when you decide to be assertive, you choose to make it a way of life for you. If you have not, up to that point, been assertive, you may make a lot of people feel uncomfortable. The dynamic of your relationships will change. Most people will, in time, adapt to your new approach but there may be a small number of people who do not. The people who do not adapt will end up playing a smaller role, if any, in your life. I am trying to a paint a brief but honest picture of what happens when you decide that you need to be assertive on a more consistent basis. So, given the effort required and the potential for stress, why would you want to be assertive?

When you choose to be assertive, you operate from a position of equality and respect. You respect your own rights, values and beliefs while respecting the rights, values and beliefs of others.  Treating everybody, including yourself, as equal gives you better appreciation for the way in which the world actually operates. Aggressive people feel that everybody should serve them and passive people feel that they should serve everyone else. Assertive people understand that we can work together for the mutual benefit of everyone involved.

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Reasons why you should choose to be assertive

​There are many reasons why you should choose to be assertive. The majority of these reasons can be placed into one of the following 4 groups:

1. Improved self-image

Your self-image refers to the way you view yourself. How you view yourself affects the way you view the world e.g. with a negative self-image you may adopt a pessimistic view of the world and fail to see any opportunities for you to succeed.  When you choose to be assertive you adopt a realistic self-image. You do not see yourself as superior to others (aggressive) but you also do not see others as being superior to you (passive). As my mother taught us from an early age:

‘There is nobody better than you but you are no better than anyone.’

You accept that you are of equal value to others and your sense of self-worth reflects this. When you adopt this view you realise that everybody in the world has their own preferences so, you will not always be able to have your preferences met. You know that, for the same reason, you will not always be able to meet the preferences of others. Understanding this allows you to deal with the occasions where you cannot meet the preferences of others or they can not meet your preferences.

2. Improved understanding of others

When you are assertive, you learn to view others in a more realistic context. Rather than see them as a threat, you realise that they are simply trying to achieve their objectives. When others make a request of you, they do so because they believe that you are the best person to help them achieve their objectives. Rather than view them as competitors, you start to see them as potential collaborators. These people offer you the opportunity to work together to achieve greater benefits for both parties.

Assertive people also understand that people choose their own feelings. If somebody is upset because you did not agree to their request, you realise that they chose to feel upset and it was not you who made them feel that way.

3. Improved self-awareness and self-confidence

When you choose to be assertive, you develop a greater respect for your own opinions. You realise that not only do you have the right to your own opinion; you have the right to express that opinion. Even when you feel that your opinion will not be accepted, you are comfortable expressing that opinion. This builds your confidence and saves you from spending time going over what you wished you had said.

The more assertive you become, the clearer you become about who you really are. You gain a better awareness of your identity, your values, your beliefs, your likes and your dislikes. You are comfortable expressing your views and where others disagree, you are happy to agree to disagree. You do not feel any sense of loss when you agree to disagree, nor do you feel that you have upset anybody.

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4. More time and more energy

As somebody who coaches organisational skills, I am a firm believer that you should deal with things properly at the first time of asking. Assertiveness allows you to do that. When you choose to be assertive, you express your views clearly and the issue gets dealt with there and then. You do not need to spend time and energy thinking about the issue unless it reoccurs at a later stage.

When you are aggressive, you see others as a threat and you constantly fear some form of attack. This creates a lot of stress, wastes a great deal of energy and loses you a lot of productive time. With passive behaviour, you fail to express your views and you let situations build up. You spend precious time and energy ruminating over the incident, thinking about what you could have done differently. Worse than that, if the situation persists unchecked, you will eventually snap. If you snap outwardly by becoming aggressive with others, you end up creating a mess which will take some time to repair. If you snap inwardly by giving up or turning on yourself, you can end up with health issues (e.g. stress) which can take a long time to overcome. This is passive aggressive behaviour and it is a major problem for many people. Thankfully you can learn to Tackle Passive Aggressive Behaviour.


Choosing to be assertive requires effort, commitment and time. Things do not always go smoothly and there can be an initial period of discomfort both for you and the people you interact with. The dynamics of your relationships will change and you may even lose some people from your life. It is worth reminding yourself that you are seeking to respect yourself and respect others. You are choosing to operate from a position of equality. If other people cannot accept that then they are probably not the type of people you need in your life. Assertiveness allows you to be the best person that you can be while helping others to get the best from themselves. Making the transition can be a rocky road at first but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.  Don’t just choose to be assertive; be assertive! Once you start to experience the long-term benefits, you will realise that it was one of the smartest decisions you ever made.

Image credit: Chance Agrella