A lot of tips and tricks are available online but only you can help yourself speak up for yourself. You may know the techniques, or you may know the steps. But are you able to apply them? If yes, then good for you. If no, then why not?

First off, it’s perfectly normal if you find it hard to put your thoughts forward. It’s also understandable if you come off as forceful when you actually try to speak up. There is a very thin line between assertion and aggression, and it only takes the smallest fear for assertive behavior to turn into a passive one.

What we aim for is to be able to say what we want without using force. And one of the quickest ways to do this is to recognize the factors that prevent us from doing so.

Margarita Tartakovsky, an editor in Psych Central, explained the reasons why people find it hard to be assertive. Here we enumerate the three most common barriers to assertive behavior, as explained by Tartakovsky:


Anxiety and stress

When a person is put in an uncomfortable situation, his natural response is “fight or flight”. It’s either that person will feel threatened and respond with aggression, or feel afraid and respond with silence. Being put on the spot can be overwhelming and can mess with your decision-making (Patterson, 2000).


Belief system

A person’s behavior (and communication style) can hugely be affected by what he/she believes in. A person’s belief system may be influenced by a lot of factors but the topmost factors are self-esteem, gender, and culture:

A.   Self-esteem- A person with low self-esteem will feel like everyone else’s opinion and good sake is more important than his own. This person will constantly retreat. On the other hand, a person with high self-esteem will feel entitled and will be willing to fight tooth and nail to prove his/her point.

B.   Gender Roles- Gender roles can affect a person’s belief system as this is what a person grows up with. A woman might feel the need to quietly obey and a man may feel the need to order and impose.

C.   Cultural Beliefs- There are some cultures where power distance is greater than others. According to Hofstede, power distance is the degree to which people expect power to be distributed unequally. People from cultures with high power distance, such as most Asian countries, are culturally submissive to authority. They might feel the urge to speak up but will seldom do so because of they respect the chain of command.


Not Knowing What You Want

Being assertive entails saying what you want in the most respectful way. You’ll definitely have trouble being assertive if you don’t know what you want in the first place. Often times, awareness of one’s wants and needs makes a person stay firm on his/her opinions.


So how do you overcome these barriers? For starters, you need to identify what kind of behavior you’re aiming for. Second is to search and identify which assertiveness tools work best for you. Tartakovsky reminded, however, that a change in behavior doesn’t happen overnight. She reiterated that it takes consistent practice and application to be able to fully acquire a desired behavior.

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