10 ways to be assertive while still keeping it classy

It’s hard to ask for what we deserve.

It’s even harder to demand respect when someone is clearly stepping on our boundaries. 

But there are tricks for you to get what you want and not lose your cool while advocating for yourself. 

In this article, I will give you ten ways to be assertive while still keeping it classy.

1. Don’t react fast

Before you even think about what to do or say, breathe in and out then count to ten.

Reacting too fast can do more harm than good, and if you want to keep things classy, this is the cardinal rule.

I know, I know. It’s the hardest thing to do! 

But meditation and constant self-monitoring can help you get there. It takes months and even years for most people to get to this level of zen, so be patient and just keep at it.

2. Be polite

If you want to be classy, you have to be a little more polite. But if you want to be assertive—because you want things to go your way or you want others to stop doing something—then it’s simply a must.

By saying “Please” and “thank you”, you’re showing the other person that you respect them for who they are—that you see them as equals. And this is sometimes all they need to actually listen to you and consider your requests.

Of course, you have to refrain from being too polite. Don’t force yourself to be one if you’re actually seething. It will likely come off as sarcastic…and trust me, they don’t want that!

3. Inform them, don’t accuse them

Instead of pointing a finger at someone, simply let them know you’re aware of what they’re doing.

For example, when someone is using your pen without your permission, don’t snatch it from them and say they have absolutely no right to use your things. Instead, calm yourself down then tell them “Hey, you’re using my pen” or “That pen looks exactly just like mine!”

Not reacting based on impulse is what makes someone classy. 

It shows that you know how to manage your emotions… and well, that’s something everyone should aim for.

Of course, only do this if it’s their first or second offense. If they’ve been doing it repeatedly, then you have to be a little more assertive.

4. Give them the benefit of the doubt

When we’re too sure about something, there’s a tendency that we get a little close-minded and aggressive. After all, if we’re sure that they’re clearly trying to hurt us, then why do we even have to be nice to them?

But look! What if…just what if, they’re not doing it on purpose. Worse, what if YOU’RE the one who’s wrong? Using the pen example above, what if you just have the same pen? It’s not impossible, is it?

So before you “show ’em” or “put them to their place”…before you attack them for doing something “bad” towards you, ask yourself if you’re 1000% right, because there is always a possibility that you’re just jumping to conclusions. And classy people don’t do that.

5. Use “I think” or “I feel”

Words matter a lot when it comes to dealing with people—especially during confrontations, debates, and arguments. So make sure you are careful with every word that you say.

One trick to make it easier to achieve this is by using “I” rather than “You”.

Don’t say “You stole my pen!”, say “I think that’s my pen” or “I feel like you’re not respecting me when you do that.”

“I” is not an accusatory language. 

It means that you acknowledge that you can still be wrong because it’s just your perception or feeling—not hard facts. 

If they’re truly innocent, they’d easily tell you that no, you’re actually wrong. And if they’re guilty for committing that crime, they’re more likely to say sorry and not repeat the same offense.

6. Be the bigger person

This is another tough one, but it’s precisely the reason there are only very few classy people in this world.

I understand. It’s exhausting and totally frustrating to be the “bigger person” all the damn time. 

One trick that helps me achieve this is by imagining that I am a preschool teacher dealing with kids. Even if they make a mess, even if they say awful things to you, you try to be the mature one. 

You don’t shout derogatory words at them, you don’t kick the wall out of frustration…you try to be the calmest person in the room!

You deal with them like they don’t know any better and this is how you remain classy while setting boundaries and pushing for what you want—with gentleness and kindness.

7. Be very clear of what you want

If you’re an assertive person, then you likely know what you want and don’t want…so this isn’t the difficult part.

What matters is your delivery. It’s what separates the classy ones from those who aren’t.

So let’s say that you want to have an assistant because you’re always overworked.

You don’t just complain to everyone in the office “This work is slowly killing me!”  This will not yield any good results, there’s a chance it will reach your boss…which could lead to trouble (you don’t want that!)

Instead, you go to your boss (when they’re in a good mood!) and say “Hey, for the past months, I feel like I’ve been overworking myself, and if this goes on longer, I might burn out. Is it possible that I have an assistant to help me with my load?”

Now, that’s the classy way to ask for what you want!

8. Be very clear of how their actions affect you

This is similar to the one above. The point is that clarity is very important when it comes to being assertive.

If your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t plan date nights anymore and it’s clearly affecting you, then say it—but say it clearly, and in the most loving way.

The important thing is to be specific.

Say “Honey, I love you so much, but I do miss the time when you’re actively planning dates for us. Can we do it again? I’ll plan Saturdays, and you do Sundays. Do you think that’s doable?”

It’s definitely more classy—and again, effective— than just pouting hard and saying “I feel you don’t value our relationship anymore!!!”

9. Start by saying the positive things first

This is a very popular tactic used by charming people—you know, those types who always get favors left and right— and that’s because it works!

Giving genuine praises and starting with the positive things will help you to get what you want, and it also makes complaints less harsh and more welcome.

If you’re at a restaurant and your coffee is not as hot as expected, you say “I really like your food and your service is great, but I just noticed that my coffee isn’t hot as usual.”

Your chance of getting a new cup of coffee is almost 100% if you do it this way. 

Saying “What is this crap?! Do you even know how to make coffee?!” will still get you a replacement, but you’ll also get everyone’s attention—in a bad way.

10. Make them feel like they can be your hero

This is a rather sneaky, manipulative move again. But only when overdone.

Being grateful is okay. Showering someone with praises like they’re god even if what you’re asking is really nothing will give out creepy vibes—definitely NOT classy.

So how do you do it right?

By simply telling them how their actions will affect you in a specific way.

If your friend always “forgets” to pay you back the money they owe you, then tell them “Oh I could really use it now. I’m too tired to go to withdraw money from an ATM.” 

Now, this won’t make them feel like a “hero”—quite the opposite—but it COULD trigger them to find a way to become your hero by finding a solution to pay you back right away.

And if you want to ask something—say, a raise—then tell your boss exactly how it can help you personally as well as professionally. 

You’re likely to get what you want this way because you’re making them feel good. By giving you “favors’, they’re granting you a wish (which makes them feel good) instead of obliging to your demands.

Last Words 

Being assertive in a classy way is not easy to do. But it’s a trait that we all should strive for.

Not only will your happiness increase, you’ll also maintain good relations with everyone around you.

So this new year, fight for what you want and demand for what you deserve…and do it with as much class as possible.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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