Be More Assertive (And Feel Good About It)

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By Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • Somebody cuts in front of you in the grocery store line. You're irritated but don't say anything.
  • Your friend asks you to pick her up at the airport. Again. You say yes even though you have no time.
  • You disagree with your boss, but say nothing.
Are you nodding yes? We've all had moments when we think to ourselves, I'm confident, I'm smart and I know what I want. Why can't I just say it? Being assertive -- standing up for yourself and speaking your mind in a clear yet respectful way -- can be remarkably hard on a good day. We worry if we ask for what we need, we'll put someone out. Or that we'll come across as a you-know-what. So we just let what we want go unsaid.

In your defense, it is more of a challenge to state your needs these days. The still-shaky economy may make you hesitant to ask for that raise at work (or disagree with your boss). You may feel worse turning down requests from family, knowing they're stressed. And it's not just your imagination that more folks are losing it in public -- witness the woman who sprayed mace at fellow shoppers on Black Friday. A recent survey revealed that 86 percent of Americans have been the victims of rude behavior.

The payoff of having your own back, though, is enormous -- and it's so much more than simply getting your way. "When you say what you want, you live a happier and more authentic life," says Caroline Adams Miller, author of "Creating Your Best Life". That's true no matter what the outcome, adds Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of the cognitive behavioral training program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Those who speak up do better at work, have more time, and have healthier relationships.

So how do you master this crucial skill? "The three keys," explains Miller, "are knowing what you want, believing you have a right to it, and finding the courage to express it." You are about to become your own best advocate.

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