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Do you struggle with standing up for yourself? Do you dare not start a conversation, show initiative or criticise? Do you find it difficult to say 'no', or are you afraid to speak your mind?

What is it? 

Assertiveness is standing up for your personal interests, expressing (expressing) your feelings, thoughts and wishes in a way appropriate to the situation. In other words, daring to say what you think, feel and want, and thereby standing up for yourself in a way that delivers. This on the basis of respect. Respect for your own interests and respect for the interests of the other person .Basically, assertiveness is aimed at keeping open communication (dealing) with others and usually assertiveness (through honesty, directness and openness) will stimulate communication. 


Assertiveness is: asking for something, keeping open the possibility of reaching a compromise if two interests clash. Assertiveness is not: getting your way at all costs, or overwhelming the other person. So assertiveness is essentially different from selfishness or aggression. The starting position for being assertive is the attitude: "I have the right to feel, think and wish what I want and to talk to others about it!" 


There are three forms of assertiveness: sub-assertiveness, aggressive assertiveness, and assertiveness:

  • Sub-assertiveness is putting aside your own interests to please others, avoid conflict, etc. In sub-assertiveness, you do this by keeping your mouth shut, acting submissive, talking down to the other person, giving in even though you know you want things to be different.
  • Aggressive assertiveness is pushing aside the respect of others. You do this by imposing desires and needs on others: you go on the attack at inappropriate times, demanding, overwhelming, dominating the other person, rolling the other person flat.
  • Assertiveness is daring to say what you think respectfully, feel and want and stand up for yourself in a way that delivers.


One of your parents keeps giving you unsolicited advice on how you should live your life. You haven't said anything about it yet, you notice you don't like it.

  • Subassertive; yes sorry, you are absolutely right, should have thought of it myself, stupid of me... will do....
  • Aggressively assertive: ''you're always whining too, you never understand me, running away and slamming doors."
  • Assertive: "Gosh dad, I don't feel comfortable when you come with well-meaning advice, I need to talk about what I'm struggling with, without being immediately carried to a solution."

What can you do yourself?

Below are a number of tips. They will not make you 100% assertive right away, but they may give you direction to be more assertive (and practice makes perfect!).

  • Many people prefer not to contradict others because they fear the consequences. What will the other person think and what if.... (just fill in all kinds of disaster scenarios on the dotted line). Try looking at things from the other side. Who says the other person will get angry. They might actually be very happy that you indicate what is on your mind. And you can only estimate the likelihood of disaster scenarios after experimenting with assertive behaviour.
  • Behaving assertively is scary if you don't do it often. You probably feel your heart beating and your blood racing when you are about to stand up to someone. Try to relax in that moment. By relaxing yourself, this fear will naturally diminish. You can do this, for example, by first tensing your muscles and then relaxing them again. After all, you cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time.
  • In many cases, you can prepare assertive behaviour: if you keep struggling to be assertive in certain situations, for instance, or if you know in advance that you will have to be assertive. In those cases, you can already practise an appropriate response at home. At least then you know you have it in you that will make you stronger.
  • Are there people around you who are assertive? Then, take a look at how they behave. Look at the way they move and what words they use. You will learn not only how to do it but, more importantly, that it can be done.

Research shows that behavioural training (i.e. practising assertive behaviour) is the most important ingredient of any assertiveness training programme. This is difficult to practice from paper. It can only be achieved properly in training or coaching.

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Be Assertive : Get what you want

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Contact team Student Guidance

  • If assertiveness is affecting your mental well-being, make an appointment with a student psychologist.
  • If assertiveness is an actual impedement on your study progress, please book in an appointment with a student counsellor.