How to Be Assertive in English to Sound More Confident

Jan 9, 2019 | Business Professional English, English Conversation

It’s the start of the new year! Happy 2019!

Have you decided that this is the year you’re ready to make some changes in your English so you can communicate the way you want and feel less stressed?

If you said, yes, then good news! Today’s lesson will help you do that.

It’s time to learn how to be assertive in English. Here’s why:

Did you know that being assertive when speaking can help you manage stress and negative emotions, deal with uncomfortable situations, and express yourself more effectively?

Plus, it can help you avoid too many responsibilities if you have a hard time saying no to others or asking for what you want.

That all sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

Well, welcome to the first Confident English Lesson of 2019!! That’s exactly what we’re going to focus on.

Learning to be assertive in English will help you do just that.

In today’s lesson, you’ll get 5 strategies that will help you communicate in an assertive way with confidence so you can:

  • Say no to working late because you want to go to your daughter’s concert at school
  • Ask for what you want or need, without feeling bad
  • Defend your opinion or point of view, even if others disagree with you
  • Manage stress more easily by setting clear boundaries
  • Respond to uncomfortable situations respectfully instead of with anger or aggression

At each step, I’ll share clear examples of the language you can use in English to help you do this. And then you’ll have the opportunity to practice at the end.

5 easy ways to sound more confident & be assertive in English.

Lesson by Annemarie

Five Strategies to Be Assertive in English with Examples

Strategy 1:

Use ‘I’ statements.

  • I need
  • I want
  • I’m certain
  • I believe

Strategy 2:

Avoid words that undervalue what you say.


  • Instead of: I just want to talk to you about… SAY I need to talk to you when you have time. JUST undermines what we are saying, it tells people what we are saying is not important.
  • Instead of: Sorry for bothering you but can I have that back… SAY I need that returned please. SORRY should be saved for real apologies and not overused because it undermines our message.
  • Instead of: I guess what I am saying is I would prefer not to cover your shift… SAY Sorry, I will not be able to do that. GUESS tells the listener that we do not believe what we are saying. 
  • Instead of: I could be wrong but… SAY I believe…
  • Instead of: This might sound crazy… SAY I have a novel idea…
  • Instead of: If it’s okay, I would like to… SAY This is what I believe needs to happen… 

    When you remove those undercutting words, your comments sound more clear and certain.

“When you remove words such as just, sorry, and guess, your comments sound more clear and certain.”

Strategy 3:

Avoid using modals.

Modals are great for polite, diplomatic requests. But when you need to be assertive, it’s best to avoid words such as could, would, might, and should.

Instead, use will. For example:

  • Will you get that to me today?
  • When will you get that to me?


Strategy 4: 

Use ‘when’ + ‘I feel’ statements to let people know how their behavior is affecting you. For example:


  • When you don’t listen to me I feel disrespected.

Strategy 5: 

Create clear boundaries.

When we are assertive we state the facts, we don’t apologize and we don’t over explain. With really pushy people we can keep repeating these facts to make our boundaries clear, to let them know what we can and will do and what we will not do.

Here’s an example:

  • I can meet you on Wednesday morning but Thursday won’t work for me this week.

Now it’s time for you to use these 5 strategies to practice how to be more assertive in English. 

Review the two situations below. Then tell me how you would respond in an assertive way.

  1. You have been doing extra work to help your disorganized colleague for the last month.  Let your colleague know you cannot keep doing their work for them.
  2. A neighbor borrowed your favorite book 12 months ago, you have already asked for it back a couple of times. 

The best place to share your answers is in the comments section below. It’s also a great place to learn from others in the Confident English Community.

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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