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I want to take care of myself, but everyone wants something from me.

What about the people who won’t take “NO” for an answer?

Respect yourself and others will respect you. Disrespect yourself and they will treat you accordingly.

–Dr. Tricia


MYTH: Assertiveness is the same as aggressiveness.

FACT: Even high achievers, who have an intellectual knowledge of the difference, tend to emotionally confuse the two.

MYTH: Assertiveness will break relationships.

FACT: Assertiveness is an art and a skill of protecting your needs without infringing on others’ needs. Assertiveness prevents resentment. Reducing resentment prevents the emotional build-up that usually results in edginess or blow-ups.

MYTH: You can achieve your goals without being assertive.

FACT: Assertiveness literally protects the time, emotion and energy that are necessary for optimal achievement.


 It helps us direct our own lives.

♦  It keeps us from being held captive by others’ issues.

♦  It supports our time management efforts.

♦  It helps us follow through on our priorities.

♦  It teaches others to respect us.

♦  It helps us to be kind.

It protects us from the emotional drain of others’ negativity.

♦  It protects relationships.

♦  It allows us to win.


Don’t Over-explain.

It comes across as you feeling that you need to justify your boundaries. Over-explaining conveys ambiguity and weakens your position. The underlying cause of over-explaining is the need for others to approve of your decision. If it feels awkward to offer no explanation, use “because” with a non-specific explanation. “I am not able to do that because it doesn’t fit with my priorities.”

If someone offends you, take the time you need to compose an effective response.

When people are learning to be assertive, they often “freeze” when they are shocked or offended. It’s okay to go back a day or two later, and say “I was really confused when you said…..can you help me understand…” The fact that you are revisiting the issue is enough to let the other person know that you are not easily “walked on.’

Brainstorm  one-liners that you can use across situations.

Pick about 3 one-liners that will work across a variety of situations. Check out the list on the slider at the bottom of the page. A lot of people take one of these suggestions and tweak the wording so that it fits their personality. It is helpful to have a very gracious one-liner as well as one with a harder edge.

Be Aware of the Precedents You Set

Train people behaviorally on how you want them to respect you and your time. Examples: From the beginning, end conversations on time. Do not be available all the time unless you want others to expect that from you. “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” teaches people that you are not the default crisis-response person. If you don’t want the phone to ring after 8pm, stop answering it until others learn to call earlier.

Re-set Bad Precedents

If you have already taught people to take advantage of you, give them a heads-up about the change. “I need to re-prioritize my use of time in order achieve some important goals. I want to let you know that I will begin _____ (or) I will no longer be able to ______.” Be consistent with the change; otherwise you will train them not to take your word seriously.

Use non-verbal cues to strengthen the message.

Necessary non-verbals to convey confidence = head up, arms at your sides, eye contact. If you need to show power, take up more physical space.

Make sure that you do not smile when you set boundaries. Don’t worry about looking mean–just maintain a sincere, neutral expression. Smiling sends a message that you are not serious about the boundary you are setting.


You can perfect your assertiveness, and you will occasionally encounter people who are too selfish or too socially inept to respect your boundaries. My personal rule of thumb is that I give people three chances. My voice becomes increasingly firm when I have to repeat myself the second and third time. Feel free to walk away if you can. I was recently at a phone store. After repeating my needs in gracious, and then increasingly strong terms, I looked the associate in the eye and said “I’ve told you “no” at least three times, and you’ve disrespected that. I’m done.” I walked out the door, and the associate knew exactly why he had lost the sale.


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