Assertiveness Skills

Assertiveness Skills Worksheet

  • Do you have trouble saying “NO”, even when you really should?


  • Do you feel people take advantage of you?


  • Do you have trouble controlling your temper?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, going through this worksheet will help you to learn to be more assertive.


What is your definition of assertiveness?


Assertivenes is:

  • It is expressing your opinions, needs and feelings without ignoring or hurting the opinions, needs and feelings of others.
  • It also means communicating what you really want in a clear fashion, respecting your own rights and beliefs and the rights and beliefs of others.
  • It is also about standing up for your rights to be treated fairly but in a respectful and constructive way.
  • It is not about being aggressive or always getting your own way.
  • Assertiveness is about being responsible for yourself and making your life work for you, instead of being a victim of circumstances.


Asserting yourself means:


  • You can say ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ when you mean ‘No’.
  • You can communicate clearly to others what you are feeling in a calm way.
  • You do not let fear of conflict stop you from speaking.
  • You feel good about yourself.
  • You feel entitled to be who you are and to express what you feel.

Assertiveness is important because:

  • If you assert yourself, you behave in a way that demonstrates your confidence and this earns you respect from others in return.
  • Asserting yourself will stop others from cheating you and you from cheating yourself out of what you deserve.
  • It will help you view other people from a position of non-judgment.
  • Being assertive will help you maintain self-respect.
  • It will enhance the likelihood of creating win/win situations.
  • It will increase the chances of having your needs understood and met.
  • When you assert yourself you will feel empowered
  • You live with integrity and enjoy sound emotional health.

Is assertiveness a skill that one is born with or is it something that one learns along the way? Motivate your response.




Put a tick on the response you believe is correct.


  1. You have the right to stand up for yourself and others



  1. Saying something you know will hurt someone’s feelings is just being assertive



  1. Demanding things and bullying others is another way of being assertive



  1. Which of the following determines if you are assertive?

How attractive you are.

How much money you have.

Your communication skills.

How many people are on your side.

  1. Which of the following is an example of assertive behaviour?

Being loud and controlling the conversation.

Agreeing with everything or being afraid to speak.

Judging others and refusing to speak.

Speaking openly and valuing both your and others’ opinions.

  1. It is better not to express yourself because if you do people will think you are aggressive.



  1. Assertive people are usually conceited and overconfident.



  1. Which of the following physical behaviours would indicate to others that you are assertive?

Slamming doors and making a lot of noise.

Standing in a corner and avoiding people.

Making eye contact with others and looking relaxed and open.

Crossing your arms and glaring at others.


If you don’t know how to be assertive, you may experience:


  • Depression: a sense of feeling helpless with no control over your life.
  • Resentment: anger at others for taking advantage of you.
  • Frustration: why did I let that happen?
  • Temper: if you can’t express anger appropriately it can build up to temper


  • Anxiety: you may avoid certain situations which make you feel uncomfortable

and you may therefore miss out on activities, job opportunities etc.

  • Relationship difficulties: it can be difficult in relationships when individuals can’t tell each other what they want and need or how the other person affects them.
  • Stress-related problems: stress can have a negative impact on the body and assertiveness can be a good way of managing stress.


Please examine the following questions and reflect on how often or to what degree you agree with the statement.

·       Do you ask for help if you need it?
·       Do you express anger and annoyance appropriately?
·       Do you ask questions when you are confused?
·       Do you volunteer your opinions when you think or feel differently from others?
·       Do you speak up in class frequently?
·       Are you able to say “no” when you don’t want to do something?
·       Do you speak with a generally confident manner, communicating caring and strength?
·       Do you look at people when you are talking to them?
Your honest responses to these questions will give you an indication of your level of assertiveness.
















What causes people to avoid being assertive? Give as many reasons as possible. You may want to discuss this with the person sitting next to you to find out what they consider to be the causes of this.



Assertiveness is the balance between passiveness and aggressiveness. Look at the three kinds of behaviour in this table.


The Passive Person The Aggressive Person The Assertive Person
Is afraid to speak Interrupts and “talk over” others Speaks openly
Speaks softly Speaks loudly Uses a conversational tone
Avoids looking at people Glares and stares at others Makes good eye contact
Shows little or no expression Intimidates others with expressions Shows expressions that match the message
Slouches and withdraws Stands rigidly, crosses arms, invades others’ personal space Relaxes and adopts an open posture and expressions
Isolates self from groups Control groups Participates in groups
Agrees with others, despite feelings Only considers own feelings, and/or demands of others Values self-equal to others
Hurts self to avoid hurting others Hurts others to avoid being hurt Tries to hurt no one (including self)
Values self less than others Values self more than others Values self equal to others
Does not reach goals and may not know goals Reaches goals but hurts others in the process Usually reaches goals without alienating others
You are okay, I am not I am okay, you are not I am okay, you are okay

Look at this practical example that highlights the difference in these three forms of behaviour:

Passive: I lose, you win

Aggressive: I win, you lose

Assertive: I win, you win

Read the following scenarios and indicate whether each of the three responses given is aggressive, passive or assertive

Scenario 1: Cousin Jessie, with whom you prefer not to spend much time, is on the phone. She says that she is planning to spend the next three weeks with you.
(1) We’d love to have you come and stay as long as you like.

(2) We’d be glad to have you come for the weekend, but we cannot invite you for longer. A short visit will be very nice for all of us.
(3) The weather down here has been terrible (not true), so you’d better plan on going elsewhere.

  1. ___________________ 2. ________________________ 3. _________________

    Scenario 2: You have bought a toaster at a local discount house and it doesn’t work properly.
    (1) I bought this toaster and it doesn’t work; I would like my money back.
    (2) What right do you have selling me junk like this?
    (3) You silently put it in the closet and buy another one.

  2. ___________________ 2. ________________________ 3. _________________

    Scenario 3: One of your children has come in late consistently for the last 3 or 4 days.
    (1) I have noticed that for the last few days you have been a little late and I am concerned about that.
    (2) The next time you are late, you are moving out.
    (3) You mumble to yourself and give dirty looks, hoping she/he will be on time tomorrow.
    1. ___________________ 2. ________________________ 3. _________________

    Scenario 4: You are at the dinner table and someone starts smoking, which offends you.
    (1) Hey, that smoke is terrible!
    (2) You suffer the smoke in silence.
    (3) I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t smoke here.
    1. ___________________ 2. ________________________ 3. _________________

    Scenario 5: You are across the room and someone is talking to you but not quite loud enough for you to hear.
    (1) You continue straining to hear but end up day dreaming.
    (2) You yell out, “Speak up! I can’t hear you if you talk to yourself.”
    (3) You stop, get the person’s attention and say, “Would you mind speaking a little louder, please?”

  3. ___________________ 2. ________________________ 3. _________________


Assertiveness takes time, patience and guts. It doesn’t “just happen”. You need to choose to be assertive and you need a willingness to check out, try and do new things. The best way to learn assertive behaviour is through practice

5 Simple Assertiveness techniques


  • Technique 1: Assertive body language

Body language is a powerful way of communicating to people how we would like to be treated. Assertive body language includes the following:


  • Face the other person, standing or sitting straight.
  • Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Have a pleasant facial expression.
  • Keep your voice calm and pleasant.
  • Make sure that your body language supports what you are saying (e.g. do not

make the mistake of nodding your head when you are trying to say”No”!).


  • Technique 2: ‘Broken record’ technique

The broken record technique is very effective and can work in a variety of situations.

This approach is particularly useful in:

  • Situations where you feel your rights are being ignored.
  • Coping with clever, articulate people.
  • Situations where you may lose self-confidence if you give in.

How to use the broken record technique:

  • Work out beforehand what you want to say and rehearse it.
  • Repeat your reply, using exactly the same words, over and over again and stick to what you have decided.
  • Keep repeating your point, using a calm and pleasant voice.
  • Don’t be put off by clever arguments or by what the other person says.
  • Don’t be pulled into an argument or having to explain your decision.
  • There is nothing that can defeat this tactic.

Example: being asked to lend money

Sarah: “Jane, can you lend me R10?”

Thoko: “I can’t lend you any money. I dont have it.”

Sarah: “I really need it, I’ll pay you back.”

Thoko: “I can’t lend you any money. I dont have it.

Sarah: “I thought you were my friend.”

Thoko: “I am your friend, but I can’t lend you any money. I dont have it.


  • Technique 3: Using ‘I’ statements

‘I’ statements help to keep the focus on the problem, rather than accusing or blaming the other person. They also help to express ownership of your thoughts and feelings, rather than attacking the other person. Again, remember try to keep a calm and pleasant voice.



Say: ‘I feel upset when you interrupt me because I can’t finish what I am saying.’

Instead of: ‘You’re always interrupting me!’


  • Technique 4: Saying “No” to unfair/unreasonable requests /demands

Many people find saying “No” difficult. Sometimes by avoiding saying “No” you can be drawn into situations that you don’t want to be in. You may not want to say “No” because you may have fears about how other people may see or react to you. You may feel scared that you will be seen as mean or selfish, or that you may be rejected by others. Remember, you are not responsible for the reactions of other adults, but you can be responsible for your own actions. Saying “No” can be important and helpful, both in how you feel about yourself and also how others perceive you.


  • Technique 5: Being direct and clear

One of the most common problems in communication is caused by trying to read other people’s minds or expecting them to read yours. If you want people to respond to your ideas and needs you have to be able to say what you want clearly and in a way that will make others want to respond.


Example 1. Say: “Will you please . . . .?” Instead of “Would you mind . . . . ?”

Example 2. Say: “I won’t be able to . . . .” instead of ‘I’m not sure if I can . . . .”

Example 3. Say: “I’ve decided not to . . .” instead of ‘I don’t think I can . . . . ”





  1. Read the following role-playing situations, each of these situations involves a need for assertive behavior. With the partner, role-play each of them and apply the assertiveness techniques that you have learnt.
  • You just got home from school and your friend wants to go to the movies, but you would rather not.
  • Your friend smokes in the house and it bothers you.
  • It is your turn to do the dishes. Before you even get up from the table your sister begins to tell you that the last time you did the dishes they remained dirty and crusty and the kitchen was a mess when you finished.
  • You and your friend are discussing religion and your friend says something with which you strongly disagree.
  • You are trying to watch an intense and absorbing movie on TV. Your brother is talking loudly on the telephone to a relative and you are having trouble hearing the television.

Do you find it difficult or easier to role-play being assertive than being actually assertive. Yes/ No. Motivate your response.


  1. Finish the following dialogue with an assertive response.


It is two minutes before your Mathematics class when your good friend Vusi passes you in the hallway.

Matt: Hey, Corey, you’re not really going to class are you? Mr. Khoza’s just going over that test we took and knowing you, you probably aced it. We are all heading out for a swim. Come on! The sun’s out! Tony’s found a nice swimming spot and nobody should be around this afternoon to kick us out.


(Matt didn’t buy it! Take it one step further and try again, this time using a different approach.)

Matt: Aw, come on…live a little, take a risk.



  1. Review the statements below on a regular basis to remind yourself that your thoughts and opinions are important. Every time you agree with these statements, you are building your assertive skills.
  • I am honest and direct about my thoughts and feelings.
  • I speak up and share my views if I disagree with others’ opinions.
  • I am confident about my opinions and decisions.
  • I am able to accept that someone else may have a better idea or solution to a problem than I do.
  • I can accept positive criticism and suggestions.
  • I ask for help when I need it.
  • I am able to turn down requests that seem unreasonable or unfair.
  • I directly address things that bother me.
  • I speak confidently about things that matter a lot to me.
  • I consider my needs as important as others’.

















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