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How to Be More Assertive and Get the Life You Deserve by Paul Haarman

My latest book, The Assertiveness Workbook, is about putting your needs first and standing up for yourself in a non-confrontational way that works with the world (and not against it). Yet many people find such an approach hard to do because they don’t know how to be assertive without becoming pushy or aggressive.

To help you develop these skills, here are 5 ideas:

Strategies drawn from my clinical and personal experience and what I’ve learned from the thousands of readers (at my site and via social media) who have used them successfully: Paul Haarman

1. Stop trying to please everyone else; start pleasing yourself instead.

People-pleasing is a dangerous habit that will diminish your self-esteem, undermine your relationships and prevent you from getting the things you want in life. It’s also a futile effort because no one can possibly make all of the people all of the time.

When you say yes to others, they benefit while you suffer from resentment and burnout.

Say no more often instead—and mean it when you do. The more good stuff there is in your life, the better position you’ll be in to bring something even better into being.

2. When someone pushes your buttons, push theirs back (gently).

The next time someone pushes your buttons with a hurtful comment, respond by pushing theirs. For example, if they call you lazy or stupid, counter with “I’m tired of being judged all the time.”

This empowers you with a sense of control over your emotional reactions and helps them understand the impact of their behavior on others. You may also feel less victimized by what they’ve said once you see how similarly they behave with everyone else.

3. Check for accuracy.

When someone criticizes you, it’s easy to assume that everything they say is true—but only some things are actually based in reality:  For instance, if someone calls you selfish and lazy more than once (and especially when he has no way of knowing you’re watching), chances are good that he’s projecting his own negative qualities onto you.

Knowing this will help you better deal with criticism in the future: Rather than internalizing it and taking it to heart, use it as an opportunity for self-growth instead. For example, if someone calls you stupid or incompetent, ask yourself if there’s any truth to what was said and how you can learn from the experience.

4. Don’t just do something; sit there.

There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive—and most people don’t know how to stay on the right side of that line. This often leads to getting what they want in unhealthy ways (by manipulating others or bullying them) because they’re too afraid of not getting what they want at all.

That’s where this simple strategy comes in: The next time you want to win an argument or prove that you’re right, try doing nothing instead. Don’t respond to challenges or offer reasons why you should be thanked for something; just sit there until the other person gets uncomfortable and backs down first. As long as you don’t get angry or lash out, your silence will force them to reconsider their behavior because it won’t allow them to get the upper hand.

5. Draw a line in the sand (and mean it).

You may think that being assertive means pushing people away by saying no more often—but you’d be wrong. As per Paul Haarman it also means not allowing others to cross your boundaries without repercussions.

There are two ways to implement this strategy:

The first is to formulate an exit plan that you can act on if anyone tries to abuse, disrespect or manipulate you. For example, if someone insults you by calling you lazy, tell them “I’m disappointed in what you just said and will have nothing more to do with this conversation.”

The second way is to draw a metaphorical line in the sand for all of the people who have hurt or offended you over the years: Once and for all, put a stop to their abuses by telling them exactly why they need to be more respectful of your feelings and needs. Not only will doing so help protect your self-esteem but it will also empower you to take more assertive stands in the future.


Being assertive doesn’t mean being a doormat or someone who can’t express his or her feelings. It simply means taking control of your life by stating what you want, don’t want and need from others without letting them trample all over you in the process.



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