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How To Be More Self-assertive

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I realize this is a broad topic, but I want to learn to become more self-assertive. Specifically, becoming more assertive in the workplace. To make it more concrete or to give some context: I find myself steeped in cowardice when I work with other people who have strong/dominant personalities. Personal career advancement can be quite difficult when you are afraid to assert yourself in important situations.

Deepening my understanding of Objectivism and reading Rand's fiction books has helped me plenty -- Roark is the quintessence of how to be properly self-assertive in my opinion. However, beyond that I find it difficult to find good material on becoming more self-assertive.

Any books, article, or website suggestions?



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I have two recommendations. Neither deal with the idea of assertiveness directly, but I think they are both very helpful to that end in that they helped me make some sense out of interpersonal relatationships.

First, a book called 'Influence' by a guy named Cialdini if I remember right. It was mainly about marketing tricks and how people respond to things emotionally, but I thought it pretty easy to see how those methods of influence could be applied to more individual issues.

The other I recommend is 'please understand me' by keirsey. It is about the meyers-briggs personality typecasting. I have a few reservations about it philosophically, but thinking about people's interactions with others in terms of thses several visable either/or traits helps me see patterns in behavior. This of course allows you to alter your behavior in such a way that you are more likely to get your desired response. One example is when I have to deal with someone who is more sensorial then intuitive. If I need to explain something to them, starting with abstractions and expecting them to extrapolate, ends poorly. Whereas If I come up with a concrete example and work my way up hiarchically rather then down(as is generally more natural for me) I will tend to have better success.

Hope that is useful

Best Regards,


(Added link to books - sNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Stand tall, straight, head back so that your "looking down" at even those who are taller, look people in the eye, speak slowly and with a deep voice. Never get upset, but state you point with authority, listen to the responce and respond appropriatly and with confidence. Remind yourself that the only power anyone has over you is the power you choose to give them. Don't make that choice to empower them. Remind yourself that you are intelligent, moral, and worthy of respect. Ask yourself what would happen if you weren't assertive when you need to be? How would you feel later? How would you feel if you had spoken your mind? What if you said something that embarassed yourself? Then what? Would the fact that you embarassed your self once or twice change the fact that you are intelligent and generally possess valid ideas? Will it matter tommarow? Next week? Next month or year?

No respect, but people who are generally not assertive are in general second-hander's, people pleasers, etc. Why waste time worrying what others may think when you are allowing yourself to be disrespected? What are you getting out of this behaviour?

How would you feel if you stated your feelings and thoughts with no fear?

How ever you answer these questions just remember that being assertive does NOT mean being agressive!

Self-assertive respect and esteem themselves much more and as a side result and benefit gain the respect and admiration of others.

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I find myself steeped in cowardice when I work with other people who have strong/dominant personalities.

Often people with dominant personalities are a lot less confident than they appear. I´m talking about the bossy characters, who like to order people around and expects you to obey. Some of them may be pretty confident, but most are easily shaken. Just calmly and firmly tell them "no", and let them know why. The more unexpected your response is, the greater effect it will have.

In some cases it will end with them barking like dogs at you, and just like with angry dogs you handle them by not being intimidated and keeping your calm. But before you go there, make sure you have a good reason. Creating unecessary conflicts is not very wise.

On the other hand, people with REAL confidence is a whole different issue. Confronting them takes some serious balls. Some while ago I went around to different car dealers, looking for a sales job. I was full of confidence - sure of myself and what I had to offer. Coming to one place though, it was just gone in an instant. I met the manager, we talked for 5 minutes and when I left I was shaking and sweating. I´m not sure how he did it, but standing in his office it was like being naked and having someone looking straight through me. Now, that is the kind of person you don´t want to confront unless youre comfortable with having every inch of your soul searched.

Edited by Alfa
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drewfactor, just my two cents:

If you are able to imagine how Roark would act in a given situation, then you too know how you ought to act. Replay the incidents in your mind where you should have acted assertive. What did you do wrong? How could have you acted differently? Replace yourself with Roark. How's he acting? Now replace Roark with yourself. Visualize yourself being assertive in any given situation and that should help prepare you for actual assertiveness.

That's what I do with things of that nature. Hope it helps.

Good luck!

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Yeah Nick, good idea-- WWRD? We can start marketing 'What Would Roark Do?' bracelets. If anyone actually does this contact me for information on my royalty fees. :confused:

Edited by EC
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It also helps to start with a forum where you're more comfortable dealing with people. I have a very difficult time being confident in face-to-face conversations, but I've gotten a LOT better over the past few years by having a lot of online conversations. Online, you have to go to tremendous effort to make yourself understood; that and you soon build up a repertoire for dealing with jerks.

You also learn to understand when and how you can be a jerk yourself. It's not perfect, but it can help at least to start with. I personally still need a lot of work in this regard.

I HIGHLY recommend reading some stuff on ettiquette. I cannot stress that enough, and Miss Manners isn't a half-bad place to start. One of the keys to self-assertion is being firmly attached to your manners. It is not acceptable ettiquette to refrain from expressing a preference, because you are making it impossible for someone else to maintain their ettiquette. It is not possible to be polite to someone that doesn't express themselves.

Think about it for a second: you have a goal to accomplish that involves several people, and you would like to get all their input. What happens when one of those people is a shrinking violet? You stomp all over them no matter what you do. (And then they complain about you behind your back, too.) If this is you, you've been rude. Maybe inadvertantly, but you have. I don't know about you, but that's plenty of impetus for me to work on it, but then I get upset when I'm rude to people, since I pride myself on having reasonably good manners.

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I've been doing a little introspection and I've come to the conclusion that a large problem lies in the fear of being wrong. It's a fear of confrontation as well. I've always been terribly aversed to confrontation of any kind -- I think this is why I never played sports growing up. I'm willing to concede another person's point of view, or unjust criticism of me, or whatever, out of fear of confrontation. I realize that this is irrational and a potentially dangerous principle to live by, but change comes with a lot of challenge. It's usually after-the-fact that I usually say, "I should have said x" or "I shoudn't have let that person corner me like that and make me feel intimidated."

I think I'm improving over time, and as I said before, Objectivism has helped me alot. Having an intellectual basis for asserting my own moral worth is extremely important. I've become much more assertive in defending myself in intellectual discussions, but it is everyday situations ie. at work or among friends and family that I find myself shrouded in a weakness that I don't possess in the intellectual realm.

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drewfactor-- You may seriously want to consider going through a cognitive self-help program or even reading up on it. My guess is it would help with your assertiveness and self-esteem immensely. Most of your lack thereof probably boils down to negative self-talk in social situations which leads to negative feelings and a lack of assertiveness. Cognitive therapy teaches you how to break that mostly subconcious negative thinking pattern and replace the negative thoughts with more realistic and rational "positive" thoughts. Once you learn it you will realize that all it really is--is a way to put what you understand philosophically about proper phycho-epistemology via Objectivism abstactly into concrete systematic action that will help you immensely in the long run.

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It's usually after-the-fact that I usually say, "I should have said x" or "I shoudn't have let that person corner me like that and make me feel intimidated."

Everyone does this; it's a lot easier to think up a good reply after a few hours! The thing to do is to ask yourself "was my actual response a valid and reasonable one?" and "does more need to be addressed here?"

There's not much to be gained from trying to make sure that everyone understands the "real" you: given time and advancement by averages they'll end up with a fairly good view, anyway.

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  • 6 months later...

I don't know if this should be a new topic, but I'm wondering how assertive an individual should be when it comes to sexual desires towards people one has just met or hasn't known very long.

In The Fountainhead, Dominique and Howard only saw each other a few times before they literally ravaged one another, without ever sharing even a single real conversation. So that doesn't exactly help. In all other aspects of my life, I am an extremely assertive individual, but when it comes to sexual pursuits, suddenly I kind of just give up on myself, not exactly out of insecurity, but rather out of the feeling that I might be perceived as just another average guy who only seeks physical pleasure.

Ultimately, I become the "nice guy", when inside, I'm really just frustrated beyond belief.

What should I do?

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