Counselor talking to a student


Counseling Center

Are you assertive? Take the following quiz and find out.

Answer each statement using the following scale:  Always  5 --  4 --  3 --  2 --  1   Never

_____ I ask others to do things without feeling guilty or anxious.

_____ When someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do, I say ‘no’ without feeling guilty or anxious.

_____ I confidently express my honest opinions to authority figures.

_____ When I experience powerful feelings (anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.) I verbalize them easily.

_____ I am comfortable speaking up in a group situation.

_____ If I disagree with the majority opinion in a meeting, I can stick to my guns without feeling uncomfortable or being abrasive.

_____ When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it.

_____ Meeting new people in social situations is something I do with ease and comfort.

_____ When discussing my beliefs, I do so without labeling the opinions of others as ‘crazy’, ‘stupid’, ‘ridiculous’, or ‘irrational’.

_____ I assume that most people are competent and trustworthy and do not have difficulty delegating tasks to others.

_____ When considering doing something I have never done, I feel confident I can learn to do it.

_____ I believe my needs are as important as those of others and I am entitled to have my needs satisfied.

_____ I can tell others when their behavior creates a problem for me.

_____ When I express anger, I do so without blaming others for ‘making me mad’.

_____ I am comfortable when speaking to a large group of people.


Add up your score and if your total score is --

  • above 60, you have a consistent assertive philosophy
  • between 45 and 60 you have a fairly assertive outlook
  • between 30 and 45, you are assertive in some situations but not all
  • between 15 and 30, you may have difficulty in being assertive


Assertive Behaviors

An assertive behavior is an action that helps keep or obtain what an individual is entitled to in an interpersonal relationship without infringing on the rights of other individuals. Assertiveness is characterized by behaviors that allow us to act in our own best interest, express personal feelings comfortably, and to exercise our right of self-expression without denying the rights of others.

Types of Assertive Behaviors

  • Asking for what you are entitled to
  • Standing up for your rights
  • Refusing unreasonable requests
  • Expressing opinions and feelings
  • Expressing desires and requests
  • Being direct and honest
  • Avoiding hurting others

Assertive vs. Aggressive
Assertive behaviors are not aggressive. In assertive behaviors, one can reach a desired goal without violating the rights of others. Aggressive behaviors, on the other hand, achieve the goal at the other individual’s expense.

Below is a scenario in which a response will be provided from an assertive, unassertive, and aggressive manner.

You are in a hurry to get to class and a friend stops you to ask you if you will help him move furniture right then.

Assertive: ‘Sorry, I’m on my way to class. If you still need help this evening, let me know.’

Unassertive: ‘Well, I’m on my way to class, but I guess I could give you a hand for just a few minutes.”

Aggressive: ‘You must be stupid! I’m on my way to class. Find someone else.”

MISTAKEN Assumptions:

  • It is selfish to put your needs before others needs.
  • If you can’t convince others that your feelings are reasonable, then they must be wrong, or maybe you are going crazy.
  • You should always respect the views of others, especially if they are in a position of authority. Keep your difference of opinion to yourself.
  • You shouldn’t take up others valuable time with your problems.
  • People don’t want to hear that you feel bad, so keep it to yourself.

Your Rights
You have the right…

  • To put yourself first
  • To make mistakes
  • To be the final judge of your feelings and accept them as legitimate
  • To have your own opinions and convictions
  • To change your mind or decide on a different course of action
  • To ask for help or emotional support
  • To feel and express pain
  • To say ‘no’
  • Not to have to justify yourself to others
  • Not to take responsibility for someone else’s problem
  • Not to have to anticipate other’s needs and wishes
  • Not to always worry about the goodwill of others
  • To choose not to respond to a situation.

Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive

  • Don’t dilute

Do not apologize, make excuses, give long explanations or beat about the bush when asking for or stating something. Be clear about your needs or desires. Do not be afraid to say “no.” Avoid statements such as, “I’m sorry to have to ask you this”; “I feel awful about this but; I wouldn’t ask, only..’’

  • Be clear and direct

Plan in advance what you are going to say. Be clear, direct, and to the point. 

  • Use fewer words, rather than more, to maximize your impact. 
  • Be positive.
  • Be friendly and warm. Never raise your voice at others and always thank them if you ask them to do something.

How To Be More Assertive:

  • Start your sentences with “I,” such as “I need,” “I feel,” or “I would like” -- this will help you stay on target and get the results you want.
  • Know your rights.
  • Become a good listener.
  • Do not let social fears of anger or aggressiveness stand in your way. Assertiveness and aggression are two different things. Being assertive means being honest and truthful.
  • Practice assertive behaviors: Tell the truth, do not try to control everything, speak in the “I” format.
  • Be self-supportive!