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Lack of Assertiveness: What Causes It and What Can You Do About It?

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Lack of assertiveness is something many people deal with. It can cause problems in your social life and make you a target for bullies, toxic and abusive people. We all lack assertiveness skills sometimes and we all find ourselves sometimes in situations where we don’t know how to stand up for ourselves. Some people have no problem with acting assertively, while others may respond and in a passive and non-assertive ways.


1. Lack of Self Confidence

Low self confidence can cause lack of assertiveness and passive behavior. Also being non-assertive can lower your self confidence because you will end up in situation where you are made to feel humiliated and exploited. The reason low self confidence\low-self esteem causes us to be non assertive is that we may feel unworthy of respect by others. We may also feel unable to

2. Strict\Rigid Moral Standards

Most of us guide our own behavior by following some moral standards and rules we have set for ourselves. If you have strict moral rules you guide yourself by that can stop you from defending yourself when you need to. How does that happen? You may feel like it is not the right thing to defend yourself and attack the person that is actually attacking you. You simply can’t envision yourself being ‘mean’ to another person.

3.Childhood Experiences

Many children are not encouraged to be assertive by their parents or the school environment. Their parents or teachers may teach them to be nice and not retaliate when they are being attacked or bullied by another child. Some children are even punished by their parents when they try to stand up for themselves and express their own feelings of anger and injustice. That can cause the child to have fear of arguing and standing up for himself\herself. Authoritarian types of parenting can be guilty of creating children who are not good at standing up for themselves, because they place too much importance on obedience and submissiveness.

4. Not Being Aware of the Motives of Others

Most of us at a certain point in our lives have wondered how people can be so cruel. We often may forget that the motives and the intentions of other people may not be the best. So we fail to interpret and detect abusive behaviors. That of course causes us to act in submissive, non-assertive ways.

5. Fear of Being Perceived as a Bad Person

Standing up for yourself means that you will behave in a way that is noticeable by others. You will have to change the tone of your voice, your choice of words to be taken seriously. You may struggle to do that because you may be afraid that other people (the bystanders) may perceive you as an aggressive person.

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1. Realize That Assertiveness Is Not a 'Bad Behavior'

Yes, being assertive means you will have to do things that other people may not be pleased with. But you should realize that doing that is ok when you are being treated unfairly. Don’t worry about being perceived as ‘a bad person’ by some people. There will always be people who will judge you and interpret your behavior and the situation in the wrong way. The important thing is that you know what your rights are and that you are standing up for them. Standing up for your yourself respectfully without hurting the rights of other people is what self- assertiveness is, and it’s a good and healthy behavior.

2. Learn How to Detect and Stop Abusive and Unjust Behavior

While most of us are good at telling when we are being treated unfairly, not all of us have a good way of expressing that and standing up to unjust behavior. To be able to detect and stop someone from being abusive or unfair to you, you need to establish personal boundaries. Personal boundaries are guidelines that we set for other people that determine what behavior is acceptable and what is not. For example: if someone is taking advantage of you and your time and constantly asks you to do things for them responding to them by saying no is a sign of good personal boundaries.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Conflict

Some people think that if they stand up for themselves the situation will escalate into a fight or something with horrible consequences. While that happens sometimes, most of the time people don’t go that far and once they face that someone is not putting up with their behavior, they stop being so aggressive.

4. Practice

Practice makes you better in everything, including being better at standing up for yourself and communicating assertively. Envision yourself and practice saying no to people, envision yourself arguing with them. Learn how to communicate in an active manner, and express yourself clearly and directly.

5. Try to Act Confident Even If You Are Not

Even if you feel insecure and anxious about facing a certain person or situation try not to show it. Stand up straight, look people in the eyes and speak in a calm, direct and clear manner. Clearly assert and express your own feelings and opinions.


Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 17, 2018:

Assertiveness is a skill I have had to learn as an adult. I lived in a family of very critical people and I learned to keep quiet and not ruffle any feathers in order to get along. Now, as an adult, I have had to set some boundaries and stand up for them so that my own needs can be met. It is not easy, but it has been worth it!

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