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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California


To know how to refuse is as important as to know how to consent.

Assertiveness is not aggressiveness. It is about standing up for yourself, not looking for a fight. Assertive people express their needs through honest, unbiased, and non-confrontational communication.

  1. Improve your self-esteem by taking care of your needs. When you act assertively you feel good about yourself, because you react appropriately to situations and deal with your frustrations.

  2. Learn to recognize the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Don't be aggressive. Focus on the problem rather than on the person who is causing you frustration.

  3. Learn to say no without feeling guilty. You are entitled to your own feelings and needs.

  4. You may find that your heart is pounding and your hands are shaking, but don't lose control. Assertiveness will get easier.

  5. Stand tall, with shoulders relaxed, as you face your "opponent." Keep your gaze open and direct, but avoid a challenging, fixed stare.

  6. Speak firmly, clearly, and in a moderate tone. The more sure your voice sounds, the more confident you will feel.

  7. Describe the immediate situation that is causing you concern (for example, "This report is missing its table of contents").

  8. Make known your feelings (for example, "I am really upset that the report was sent out without an important section").

  9. Show with your voice and your body the importance of having your concerns addressed.

    • Speak with a firm voice.

    • Express your needs clearly and slowly.

    • Lean forward.

    • Maintain eye contact.

  10. Make "I" statements. This is the true essence of assertive behaviour. It makes your wishes and expectations clear without putting the other person on the defensive. Use, for example, the phrases "I want," "I feel," "I would like."

  11. Don't get tangled up in side issues as you are making your point. If the conversation is getting off-track, you might say, "I understand how you feel, but I'd like to resolve this issue first."

  12. If you feel that the other person is trying to manipulate or sidetrack you, use the broken-record technique. Repeat your message as many times as necessary. For example, say, "We can talk about that another time. Right now, we are talking about - ."

  13. Be very clear about what you want - don't generalize. Saying "It is important that reports are done by the sixth of the month" is better than "All my work needs to be done quickly."

  14. Describe the consequences of not achieving the goal for both of you.

  15. If you have to refuse a request, don't begin with an apology. You do not have to say you're sorry if you're not. Say no politely but firmly, and keep your explanation short and clear. Long explanations confuse the issue.

  16. If your discussion is going nowhere, review the process. Say, for example, "I feel we are going around in circles. This frustrates me. What am I doing wrong? I can't seem to get my point across."

  17. Be firm in expressing your own case, but do not ignore the other person's point of view. Be ready to listen and consider other positions. Welcome a chance to agree on any reasonable points, but hold your ground on issues that you still find unacceptable.

  18. When all else fails, look for a compromise. You may say, "Let's agree to disagree," and then move on, avoiding the person or the issue to the best of your ability.


Do you need to improve your assertiveness? Answer yes or no to the following questions.



  • I am not the final judge of whether my behaviour offends others.

  • I feel I have to apologize if I don't have the answer to a question right away.

  • I always say I'm sorry when I disagree with other people.

  • If I change my mind about something, I feel guilty.

  • I say yes every time someone asks for help.

  • Making mistakes makes me feel guilty, even when I know how to fix them.

  • I don't feel I can ask others to change the way they behave towards me.

  • I am embarrassed when I don't understand other people.

  • I don't feel I have the right to defer less important tasks.

  • I can't say no to things people ask me to do, even if I can't or don't want to do them.

  • I am afraid to walk away when someone starts arguing with me.

  • My opinion doesn't count, especially if I don't agree with the majority.

  • I don't dare ask questions when someone is giving me instructions.


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