This article is concerned with appropriate ways to be assertive.
“I” statements let the other person know how you are feeling without blaming and they help you to maintain your ground. When you make such statements you are giving yourself the right to state how you feel. You might say, “I know I’m silly to be like this”, or “I should be able to cope”, but it would be better to use more positive “I” statements without discounting your feelings.

Behaviour surrounding “I” statements has three components:

1. The action. 
2. Your response
3. Your preferred outcome

1. The action
The important point here is that action which may prove to be irritating need not be connected with emotions; it is simply a factual description of the situation. An example of this could be when you leave clothes on the bedroom floor or when you leave pots and pans unwashed in the kitchen. When papers are left on the desk (people have to “hot desk” more and more often these days), this is something that could become an issue for many people.

2. The response
The best response is to use “I” statements which employ “clean language”. Clean language carries no implied or overt blame; “you made me…” implies blame and is therefore not an example of clean language. This doesn’t mean we should necessarily enter a state of martyrdom or deny our feelings and say “I know it’s silly of me…” because we are always entitled to our own feelings, and it is important we take responsibility for them.

3. The preferred outcome
Common examples of where we often use blame might be “she made me upset” or “she made me angry.” This is not good. It would be better to comment on the behaviour rather than the person. “I would like it if I had some help with the housework”, would be better than “I need some help with the housework”. The second statement implies that the other person “should” help and doesn’t help the other person to feel he or she has a choice.

In what ways in which I can handle criticism and still feel assertive?

Handling criticism assertively also links to disarming anger (see anger management page).

When we argue we give others a reason to hit out, but if we use words which are non committal such as “that’s a good point” it can placate.

It’s fine to agree with the true part of a statement: “yes that’s true, I did leave the door open.”

It is important to let the other person know he or she has been heard and this will immediately deflate his or her anger. You can then be heard, but until then there just isn’t space for your voice in the other person’s world.

Top tip for putting yourself first

You need to give yourself positive strokes.
What are the negative messages you are giving yourself? Write them down, ask a friend – or ask yourself – whether the messages still seem true in the cold light of day. They are probably false. I don’t know anyone who has “suddenly” become bigheaded by accepting that they really do have talents and abilities.
What are the most difficult tasks you’ve accomplished? Include everything here; it doesn’t have to be anything grand. It could be something as mundane as putting up a roller blind in the kitchen – a task which was a real chore and which required a great deal of perseverance.
Think of the moments when you were proud of yourself and write them down.
Carry a card in your purse or wallet that says “I have a right to say no.”

How to handle conflict assertively

We all handle conflict differently and as is the case with any skill, if we are to handle conflict assertively, we need to learn and practise the techniques.
Knowing your natural tendency will help with this.

Some people withdraw; we call this “passive aggressive.” This can involve saying nothing and just sulking. However this simply devalues you and leaves you feeling miserable. So what should you do? Changing your behaviour changes the way you think and feel about yourself. Feeling positive enhances self esteem, and this becomes an upward spiral.

Start slowly and simply. Pick ten areas for yourself where you would like to be more assertive. Devise some very simple tasks, and some more challenging – but make them realistic. Decide for yourself how difficult you think these will be, perhaps on a scale of 1 to 3. Then set a time limit on when you will do them. You can do it!

Handling Conflict – It is equally important to know what you mustn’t do.

  • Don’t simply pretend everything is fine.
  • Don’t refuse to acknowledge conflict, and don’t suppress your own feelings.
  • Don’t laugh things off as if they are not important.
  • Don’t play the “I’ll get you later” game. It is unwise to set out to prove the other person wrong, or to wait until they slip up.
  • And don’t under any circumstances continue being miserable.


Rather you should express what you feel; no one can argue with this. If you say that you felt angry or annoyed when someone did something, that is a statement which cannot be disputed. Making the statement about what you feel is what matters.

This is fine as long as each person has been clear about what he or she wants. Very often in childhood we are taught to be well behaved and we are not actually aware of our own needs and preferences.

Make a list of your preferences – perhaps food, music, activities or reading. This can be a fun and revealing exercise and it can help you to have what you really want.

Appropriate Ways To Be Assertive. Behaviour & “I” Statement, Handling Criticism, Conflict Assertively, Changing Behaviour, Feeling Positive Enhances Self Esteem. Manchester, Bolton, Wigan, Leigh, Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Lancashire, North West.