How to Become More Assertive During Your College Years

Four Methods:Asserting Yourself in Common College SituationsConveying Your NeedsBeing Assertive in a ConversationDistinguishing Being Assertive from Being Passive or Aggressive

College is a new and exciting time for you. When you get to college, you may be learning for the first time how to speak up for yourself. Being assertive means that you tell others in a respectful way what you want and how you feel about a situation. This includes being direct and clear, maintaining a relaxed posture, and learning when to compromise or say no. Being assertive also includes listening to the other person and respecting their opinions. Learn how to be assertive in college so you can communicate your needs.

Method 1
Asserting Yourself in Common College Situations

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    Speak up in class. Many people in college find it difficult to have the confidence to speak up in class. You may feel intimidated by your classmates or professor, or you may be afraid to mess up with the wrong answer. Class participation is important for your education, not only so you learn how to confidently express your ideas and knowledge, but many professors incorporate it into your grade.[1]
    • If you need your professor to explain or repeat something, raise your hand and ask them to explain what they just said. You should make sure that you understand what your professor is saying.
    • Do your class readings and listen to your professor's lectures so you can answer questions when they are asked. If you know the material the professor is covering, that will give you more confidence to speak up and answer the question. Just remember not to answer every question or be a know-it-all. This may take frustrate your professor.[2]
    • Start asserting yourself in class by raising your hand once each class when you know the answer. Sometimes, your professor will just ask for a comment about a topic, which has no right or wrong answer. That is a good time to speak up.
    • Remember that giving the wrong answer in class is not always a bad thing. Part of learning in college is speaking up and learning how to discuss in an academic setting.
    • The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be speaking in class.
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    Set boundaries with a roommate. Sharing space with another person means you need to assert yourself as you set boundaries. This may be uncomfortable if you have never had to assert yourself before. When you first move in, you and your roommate need to establish what items you share and what you won't.[3]
    • For example, you may decide to share expenses for food. You may say, "You can eat my cereal and milk, but next time you go out, will you pick up replacements?" or "I'll buy this week's snack food if you'll buy next week's."
    • Your living space should be shared equally. If your roommate has their stuff in your area, you may want to say, "I don't mind if you have your stuff in our room, but it's taking up space in my area. Can you move it back to your space?" or "We need to discuss sharing this space. I think my stuff has less space. Can we look into this?"
    • You and your roommate may need to discuss when to have friends or significant others over. For example, you may need to say, "I don't mind if your boyfriend/girlfriend comes over, but I would prefer them not to spend the night" or "I respect that you want your friends over until late, but can you only do that on weekends? I have early classes and need to go to bed."
    • You may need to do this for other situations as well, such as clothes, dishes, toiletries, and quiet time.
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    Assert yourself in dating situations. College may be a great time to date and learn what you like romantically and sexually. However, dating and experimenting does not mean you should allow others to make you do things you don't want to do. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation or do not want to do an activity, firmly say "no." If you are not interested in seeing someone again, let them know firmly but politely. Don't be afraid if the other person won't like it.[4]
    • For example, if you are on a date and the other person wants to go farther sexually than you want, you have the right to stop whenever you want. You shouldn't worry about whether or not the other person will get upset. You should only do what makes you comfortable. If the other person likes you, they will respect that.
    • Say, "I like you, but I am not comfortable with that. Let's continue watching the movie" or "Please do not do that. I do not like that. Take me home please."
    • If you do not want to see someone again, say, "You're a very nice person, but I don't think this is going to work out. I am not interested in another date."
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    Stand up to peer pressure. When you are in college, you may find yourself in situations where you have to stand up to others. You may have to assert yourself to say no if you don't want to do something. You may have to stand up for what's right if people are saying hurtful or harmful things to another person. Practice speaking up for what you believe in when you feel strongly about something.[5]
    • For example, if you are at a party and someone offers you drugs, you can say, "No, thank you." If they keep pressuring you, you can say, "I'm not interested in doing drugs" or "No, I don't do drugs."
    • If you hear someone talking badly about someone, try saying, "I do not appreciate your derogatory language about that person. Can you not talk that way?" or "That kind of talk is offensive and harmful. Please do not talk that way."

Method 2
Conveying Your Needs

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    State your needs. People are not going to be able to know what you need unless you tell them. Assuming that people know things can lead to problems. Being assertive means that you let people know what you want in a clear way so that your needs are met and there are no problems or feelings of resentment.[6]
    • For example, if you are working on a project, you may want to say, “I want to have this project done three days before it is due. Will you meet with me this weekend so we can work on most of it?”
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    Use “I” statements. When talking to another person, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. This helps you express what you want without blaming the other person. This also helps you be responsible for your feelings. The word “you” may cause the other person to be defensive, which doesn’t lead to a constructive conversation.[7]
    • For example, you may say, “I feel upset when my clothes are returned dirty. I know we like to borrow each other’s clothes, so can we talk about this?” or “I would like to go out, but I have a big exam tomorrow. I would love to go out this weekend though.”
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    Say no. Part of being assertive is learning to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean that you are rejecting a person or being mean. It means that you are just expressing your unwillingness to do this particular thing. Recognizing your boundaries helps you know the right time to say no so you are not being taken advantage of.[8]
    • Remember that you don’t have to please everyone. You do not have to do everything everyone wants you to. Do what is right for you.
    • Suggest a compromise.
    • For example, you may say, “No, I do not want to go to the party Friday night. However, I would be interested in going to the movies or hanging out at your dorm room.”
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    Be patient. If you have never been assertive, you will not learn how to be assertive overnight. That is okay. It may take awhile for you to learn how not to be passive or aggressive, or to get the skills of being assertive just right.[9]
    • Keep practicing. The more you practice the skills of assertiveness, the more comfortable you will become.

Method 3
Being Assertive in a Conversation

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    Use proper body language and tone of voice. When you are speak assertively, you should adopt the proper cues in your voice and body. Your body should be relaxed and open, which invites communication. Your voice should be firm, but also calm and clear.[10]
    • Your body should be facing the other person. You should stand tall, but be relaxed.
    • Maintain eye contact without staring the other person down.
    • Your voice should be firm, but you should also speak warmly or relaxed. Use short, direct sentences and speak slowly so that you are understood.
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    Speak with facts. To help you be assertive, you should learn how to speak in facts instead of criticisms or judgments. This helps to avoid any defensiveness or blame, and instead keep the conversation constructive. This is particularly important when you are giving criticism.[11]
    • For example, you may say, “Your grammar needs work and the sources are not cited correctly” or “There is mud on your shoes and socks.”
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    Use clear statements. When communicating what you want, you should use clear, direct language.This helps you assert your needs in a way that others will understand. There will be no confusion. Frame these statements with the word “I.”[12]
    • Use statements like “I want…,” “I need…,” “I disagree. I think…,” or “I won’t…”
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    Express your emotions positively. As you deal with situations, you may find that you are angry or frustrated. This is okay, and you should let yourself feel the emotions you feel. If you are angry, you can tell the person you are angry, but in a positive, respectful way. Being assertive means you think of the other’s feelings and rights.[13]
    • For example, you may say, “I am angry that plans keep getting cancelled at the last minute” or “I get angry when my significant other ignores my feelings.”
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    Listen to the other person. Part of being assertive is listening to the other person. This includes their opinions, their suggestions, or their concerns. Remaining calm and respectful help keep the conversation constructive, and helps both of your voices be heard and your needs met.[14]
    • Actively listening to what the other person is saying can help you come up with an alternate solution that doesn’t take advantage of either of you. It can also help you come to a compromise.
    • For example, you may say, “I hear your concerns. Let’s find a way to solve this problem where we both get what we need.”
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    Suggest compromise. Compromise is a large part of being assertive. When you are assertive, you understand that other people’s views and ideas matter, so that means you meet them halfway. If you are requesting something, you may suggest a compromise. If you someone asks something of you that you don’t necessarily like, make a compromise with them that both of you are comfortable with.[15]
    • For example, you may say, “You can borrow my shirt if you promise to bring it back clean” or “I will hang out with you if it is on another night.”

Method 4
Distinguishing Being Assertive from Being Passive or Aggressive

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    Know what being assertive means. When you are assertive, you clearly express your ideas, opinions, or feelings. Expressing your ideas assertively means that you understand that you have the right to stand up for your opinions and ask for someone to change their behavior. However, assertiveness means that you respect other opinions and don’t ignore their opinions.[16]
    • An assertive person is open to other ways of thinking. They also encourage communication and compromise about the topic.
    • Assertive people think carefully about what they say. They make eye contact and keep a relaxed body posture.
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    Identify passive behavior. Passive people rarely speak their mind. When they do speak their mind, they are quiet, unsure, and apologetic. This often leads to others taking advantage of these people. Passive people act like their ideas don’t matter as much as other people’s. Passive people want to avoid conflict.[17]
    • Passive people display passive body language. They don’t make eye contact, they speak softly, and often they appear nervous. A passive person may have trouble getting words out.
    • Passive people sometimes let others make choices for them.
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    Recognize aggressive behavior. Aggressive people also stand up for themselves, but in a way that impinges on other people’s rights or beliefs. Aggressive people usually make the other person feel humiliated or like they have a lack of control. Aggressive people aim to win arguments or dominate discussions at the expense of others.[18]
    • Aggressive people make eye contact, but in a threatening manner. They may sound arrogant, tower over another person, or appear stiff and rigid.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate