How to be Assertive, well – 5 Tips to Stay on Top Without Stepping on Toes

July 28th, 2016


By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder

Assertive people tend to get more done and more of what they want. They emerge as managers and leaders. They have an agenda and persuade other people to stand behind them. They can also be pains in the tush if they come off as pushy. That’s why when thinking about how to be assertive, you have to learn to do it with skill and avoid tripping over the fine line between assertive and aggressive.

Being assertive is as much about thinking about the reactions and support of others as it is about mustering the courage to speak up in the first place. It’s not just about body language and tone of voice. It’s more than that. Skillful assertiveness is about diplomacy – the art of persuasion and compromise. In this article, we’ll be talking about everyday forms of assertiveness – especially getting your ideas on the table at the office or at home.

With that said, here are 5 Tips for Staying on Top without Stepping on Toes:

1) Have a Sound Plan or Argument

Rule number one in being assertive is having a good plan or argument that people can rally around. If you don’t have your ducks in a row, your idea won’t feel compelling. A sound plan doesn’t have to be bulletproof, but it does have to be resilient. Expect push back. Anticipate objections. Think through the contingencies. How might this conversation go? How will your counter parties feel about your plan? Who loses? How can you compensate them or lessen the blow? Are there obvious flaws in your logic?

2) Don’t Make it About You

Have you ever noticed that the most successfully assertive people seem to be rallying for a higher purpose or cause? If it’s not about God or Country, it’s for the good of the family or team. Rare is the well-received assertive person who makes it all about them. Instead, you want to craft a message that shows your commitment to the group’s success, that underscores the big picture benefits of your plan, and that gives away credit to other contributors or participants.

3) Know the Difference Between Skill and Shrill

People who are shrill in their assertiveness rarely win followers. Think of the guy on the corner with a loud speaker preaching at 85 decibels or the guy in the meeting who hammers on the same issue week after week. They are shrill, not skillful. Skillfully assertive people make their case without dramatic social displays.

4) Rally the Troops

If you are planning to assert yourself in a meeting or pitch, build some support ahead of time. No Congressman walks on to the floor of the House of Representatives to introduce a bill without a few dozen “co-signers.” Early supporters serve as social proof that your idea has merit. They also can give you feedback that can help you hone your message for a wider and potentially less loyal audience.

5) Build Your Assertiveness Muscles One Step at a Time

If you’ve never run a mile, it wouldn’t be advisable to go out and run a marathon. The same goes for being assertive at home or at work. If you’ve never spoken up for yourself or proposed a great idea to your team, a huge display of assertiveness out of nowhere might seem like you’ve finally snapped. Try asserting yourself in small ways at first. Do this for two reasons: 1) to experiment with what type of assertiveness works for you; and 2) to get others use to the idea that you are changing your tune and that they should expect more assertiveness from you in the future.


There you have it, by adopting a savvy, assertive style, you can more deftly traverse the proverbial office jungle and attain your career goals as well as improve relationships. Remember being assertive means knowing where the fine line is between assertion and aggression and balancing on it. It means having a strong sense of yourself and acknowledging that you deserve to get what you want. And it means standing up for yourself even in difficult situations.

It can be learned and developed, and although it won’t happen overnight, by practicing assertive techniques on a daily basis, you will slowly become more confident in expressing your needs and wants. So go on now….assert yourself!

If you’re seeking a confidence boost or more assertiveness building techniques to add to your toolbox check out these inspiring TED Talks videos.

We want to hear from you. What’s helped you to become more assertive? Tell us in the comments section. If you liked this article please recommend and/or share it.

You might also enjoy reading, 10 Tips For Conveying Confidence – Fake It Till You Make It.