The art of being assertive: 12 traits of people who stand up for themselves

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Being assertive is much more complicated than we think. 

More often than not, we find it hard to stand up for our beliefs, needs, and values for fear of rocking the boat or hurting other people’s feelings.

The thing is, the art of being assertive requires a balancing act. There are ways to express your needs and feelings while also considering the needs and feelings of others.

If you’re someone who’s afraid to speak up or who suffers from being too passive, then this article may be helpful.

Learn more about the traits of people who stand up for themselves. Find out why these traits are worth emulating, and how you can master them to live a more fulfilling life.

Let’s dive in!

1) They’re self-aware

Think about this for a minute: Do you have a strong sense of self-worth?

You see, when you know how valuable you are and what you deserve, it becomes much more meaningful to stand up for yourself.

Assertive people know and value their authentic selves. They have a deep understanding of their needs, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, character, desires, and motives. 

They accept themselves unconditionally, with all their flaws, imperfections, and limitations. But it doesn’t stop there: They don’t let their weaknesses limit them.

They can effectively navigate challenges and situations because they’re guided by their values.

2) They’re confident

This one’s connected to my earlier point about self-worth. That’s because assertiveness comes from a place of confidence.

Here’s the deal: The way we think and feel about ourselves influences how we show up for ourselves and the world.

For assertive people, their high and healthy self-esteem makes them feel valued enough to express themselves.

Instead of being insecure and always on the defensive, they’re not afraid to show who they really are

In other words: They don’t find it difficult to ask for what they need because they feel good about themselves.

More importantly, they won’t sacrifice their wants and needs just to please others. 

3) They’re effective communicators

Assertive people communicate positively and constructively, which means they clearly and calmly express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. 

They do this by ….

  • Making eye contact with the other person and showing genuine interest
  • Using a calm and confident tone of voice
  • Maintaining an open, upright, and relaxed body posture

They know how to articulate their needs and address issues head-on without being rude.

They encourage open, honest, and sincere communication, the kind that benefits relationships because both parties are heard and understood. This brings me to my next point ….

4) They’re good listeners

A truly assertive individual listens actively. What does that mean?

It means they focus not only on what the other person is saying but also on the emotions behind the words. 

Consider this: When you’re talking with someone, do you listen to respond or to understand?

Assertive people always do the latter. They listen attentively, and they don’t interrupt the other person while their speaking. They ask questions and they take time to reflect on what they’ve heard.

By actively listening, they make others feel valued. That’s how they’re able to respond well to others and get their message across.

5) They’re respectful

Do you know what differentiates aggressive behavior from assertive behavior? Assertive behavior is always rooted in respect.

That’s why assertive people stand up for themselves without disrespecting other people or violating their rights.

Simply put: They speak their truth and stand firm in their opinions and beliefs but they don’t resort to belittling, ignoring, or insulting another person.

Assertive people know how to respect other people’s opinions, even if they disagree with them.

They believe any type of negative or aggressive behavior is ineffective and only worsens matters. They use their assertiveness to better connect with others, not to compete with them.

6) They’re open-minded

Assertive people mean it when they say they can ‘agree to disagree.’

Their main goal is to understand other people, not to prove that they are better or above anyone else. 

They are willing to accept other people’s viewpoints and consider alternative ideas and opinions because it broadens their horizons.

It gets better: They’re also willing to change outdated or incorrect beliefs. It’s an important aspect of learning and personal growth.

During arguments, they seek to arrive at a compromise or a win-win, not an ‘I win, you lose’ ending.

7) They’re decisive

Life is all about making difficult choices. But making up our minds is not as simple as it seems.

There are a lot of fears — fear of being criticized, fear of being disliked, fear of failing — that cause us to be indecisive.

Assertive people, however, have no problem making decisions promptly and effectively.

They can confidently make rational choices because they’re self-aware. They can make decisions that are aligned with their values and goals. 

They don’t let their emotions cloud their best judgment. And once they make a decision, they stick to it.

8) They’re emotionally intelligent

It’s often easy to lose our cool in situations that may involve confrontation. We may find ourselves stirring negative emotions, which means our ability to communicate suffers.

Assertive people handle conflict and difficult conversations well. Their masters of self-control.

They balance kindness and the ability to assert themselves. Sure, they also get annoyed and experience other unwanted negative feelings.

But what sets them apart is they possess that exceptional skill to keep their emotions in check. In other words, they don’t let their emotions get the best of them.

They always ask: What is my goal? What do I want to get out of this conflict or confrontation?

That’s how they keep calm and respond rationally, even in tense situations.

9) They’re empathetic

This one’s related to my earlier point about how assertive people have great emotional control.

Not only can they regulate their emotions, but they can also properly understand and manage the feelings of others.

You may be wondering: How do they do it?

Well, they stand by their truth and remain respectful even when other people disagree with them or get upset by what they say or do.

And the best part? They know that while they can’t control how other people think or feel, they can validate their thoughts and emotions.

That’s how they defuse tensions and increase trust between parties.

They stand up for themselves while remaining compassionate and understanding of other people’s emotions and perspectives.

10) They’re proactive

Have you ever noticed how your mind can’t function properly when your emotions are all over the place? 

But when you manage your emotions, that’s when you start thinking clearly.

That’s how assertive people perform better at whatever they’re doing. They have great problem-solving skills, which means they can proactively identify and address issues.

They focus their energy on things that are completely within their power, and they always attempt to compromise.

They ask themselves: How can all parties reap the best possible benefits from the situation?

They stand up for themselves until they achieve their desired outcomes, but they’re also willing to find solutions that work for everyone. 

11) They set and maintain healthy boundaries 

Are you a people-pleaser or a pushover? Do you always say ‘yes’ even if you feel otherwise?

This type of lifestyle is unhealthy and often leads to burnout, disappointment, and resentment.

Assertive people are never people-pleasers. They can clearly define their wants, needs, and expectations

You see, a crucial part of being assertive is recognizing what is and is not appropriate, interesting, and useful, to you. 

That’s why assertive people confidently say ‘no’ to people and things that aren’t a good fit. 

They understand that it’s okay to respectfully deny someone their time or turn down a request. 

They stand by their ‘no’ and speak up when they feel disrespected or violated. 

12) They take responsibility for their actions 

Assertive people are empowered individuals who take full responsibility for their lives.

They hold themselves accountable for their words, decisions, and actions.

This includes the ability to admit when they are wrong and do what they can to correct it. 

They maintain their assertiveness over time by being consistent in their communication and behavior.

At the end of the day, they believe that being assertive is not about domination or manipulation.

It’s about a commitment to put yourself first and stand up for your truth without disregarding the rights of others. 

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net.

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