Reading time: 3 minutes May 9th 2016

When I do corporate training I often get asked for advice on being more assertive and how to stand up for yourself. The reality is that we often allow other people to determine what we do and how we do it. We find ourselves constantly in the habit of pleasing others to the detriment of our own needs and desires.

Of course I believe that just seeking to please yourself is not a noble or ethical goal to have, however neither is allowing others to walk all over you. In order to stand up for yourself and be more assertive you have to understand what the problem is in the first place.

The reason many people don’t stand up for themselves is that they are scared. They fear what other people will say or do or think. By saying no to someone you’re nervous that they might see you as unhelpful, selfish, incompetent or weak. By confronting someone about the way they are treating you they may elect to escalate the conversation into a conflict, argument or fight. By insisting on what you want they may reject you or attack you because it doesn’t give them what they want.

In order to overcome this, you need to learn to change how you think about it. When you really ask yourself why you are saying no, often it will be because it’s not good for you to say yes. I always remind people that they are always saying Yes when they say No. Every time you say no to something, you are saying yes to doing something else for that exact time slot. Knowing this means it is just a case of prioritising. This makes it easier to say no because you are clear on what is more important and can explain if necessary.

Second, often people assume that being assertive is about talking loudly or aggressively and putting people in their place. But the truth is that you can be extra sweet, nice and charming… as long as you are strong. You can insist in a lovely way with a lovely manner. Be aware of the tone of voice you are using and stand up for yourself with kindness. It is very hard for people to argue with you if you keep coming back with strong loving responses.

Sometimes it will be necessary to bear your teeth or show some aggression if you are being bullied but the key is to remind yourself of why you are doing so. Your responsibility is to be the very best you that you can be which means you can make more of a difference to more people. By reminding yourself of that, it enables you to feel more empowered and set boundaries with other people.

Recognise that there will be plenty of people who will play power games and politics in personal and professional life. In order to handle them effectively value yourself more and decide on what you will and won’t accept. The world doesn’t always give people what they deserve but what it does give you, you can choose to accept or not.

Standing up for yourself means having your own back. In this world, you won’t always be sure that someone else will so you have to start yourself.

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