Why Being Assertive is Important for Women

Being assertive is important to women  because:

  • Assertiveness allows us to act in our own best interest.
  • Assertiveness helps us to stand up for ourselves and others when necessary. 
  • Assertiveness helps us to exercise our own rights without harming others 
  • Assertiveness helps us to express our feelings and needs honestly and genuinely when necessary or desired


If being assertive is important, why aren't women  assertive?

  • Women lack the skills.
  • Women don't believe they have the right. 
  • Women are afraid

As a therapist, I was taught to teach assertiveness through a series of skills to my clients but found that these skills rarely worked. The reason, I believe, is that assertiveness skills training did not take into account the influence of gender.


    • Assertiveness is defined as the act of directly, openly, honestly, and appropriately declaring one's thoughts and feelings (Gay, Hollandsworth, & Galassi, 1975)

This challenges socially constructed notions that women ought to communicate politely. Politely often translates into not communicating anything that might be received as unpleasant.

I found that even though I tell women in my office  being assertive is important they still struggle.  It takes a great deal of work, more than just learning a set of skills, to upend the belief that you are going against who you should be as woman when you are assertive. A part of you may really believe being assertive is bad behavior because you may have been conditioned this way. 

Why Being Assertive is Important: Getting things done

Here are some examples of situations where you might want to have assertiveness skills. 

    • You are in a relationship at work or at home, and you want to say no.
    • You need to ask your partner, child, friend or boss, or coworker for something you need
    • You feel like something is happening to someone else that is unfair, and you want to be able to vocalize it.
    • It would help if you asked for clarification about something at work or school.
    • You need to set a boundary with a friend, coworker, or boss.
    • You need to be able to stand up for your child with a teacher.
    • You need to able to ask for a raise.
    • You want to ask your landlord for repairs.
    • You want to be able to express your anger and don't know how
    • You want to learn how to say no to someone pressuring you to have sex.

Being assertive is important in each of these situations, and each one is and actual example of a situation a client I have worked with has struggled with.


Why Being Assertive Important: Equality

Being assertive is important  for equality in all relationships. It allows you to act in your best interests, stand up for yourself, express your feelings, and enjoy your rights (Alberti and Emmons, 2009).

These issues are all important for women. Especially because they are things every woman I work with grapples with.

We struggle to know we can act in our best interest. We are taught it is selfish.

We struggle to stand up for ourselves because we are taught that it isn't polite or is  rude.

We struggle to express particular feelings such as anger, hostility, and frustration.

Studies show that because of this, we are at greater risks for depression and even physical conditions such as heart disease.

Why Being Assertive is Important: What The Research Says


    • Individuals with high assertiveness have fewer emotional problems, complain less about being anxious in situations, and suffer less from fears compared with people who have low assertiveness Sheinov (2014).
    • People with high assertiveness seem to have better-coping skills less stress, and be more successful.
    •  Wolpe (1958) argues that a high level of anxiety is indicative of the lack of formation of assertiveness. In contrast, a low level of anxiety is indicative of success in the communicative sphere.
    • Assertive behavior decreases feelings of helplessness.(Alberti and Emmons, 2008). 
    • Becker et al. (2008) suggest that the individual's assertiveness predicts a person's ability to have and share their own point of view and have successful impersonal relationships.
    • Children and adults whose behavior is assertive are happier, more honest, healthier, and more rarely manipulated. Feeling confident, they achieve their goals with greater success when they become adults.
    •  Kraft et al. (1986) found that increased fear of death depends significantly on a low assertiveness level. People with a high level of assertiveness are more likely to cope with such tragedies as the death of a significant other. Assertiveness is an important predictor (a precursor) of success in any business area, especially in management and leading positions.
    • A study by J. Sullivan et al. (1990) showed that the assertiveness of a competitor for a leading position, including the ability to withstand pressure, contributes to his success in career advancement.
    • Jinsi (2006) discovered a significant correlation between assertiveness and emotional intelligence in high school students.


According to Stein and Book (2011), assertiveness includes three main components:

  1. the ability to express feelings
  2. the ability to express beliefs and thoughts openly
  3. the ability to protect one's personal rights

Why  Being Assertive is Important. Knowing Your Basic Rights as a Women

 Understanding your basic rights can help you in all areas of your life. 

Jakubowski and Lange (1978) elaborated the first published list of basic Assertive rights.

According to the authors, every human being, regardless of gender, race or religious affiliation, has the right to favor one's own dignity and self-respect without violating others' rights.

I find this to be a beneficial list when working with my clients. So many of them have NOT been taught they have the right to these things. It touches on things like boundaries, guilt, and
codependency without naming them as such. . This is the basis for their assertiveness rights. It's relevance can't be overstated. I am
outlining it here, although I will be referring to women when discussing it because I am talking to my women clients.


Promote their dignity and respect or be themselves without feeling guilty. Every woman should be herself  without feeling guilty/ashamed, since everybody is unique in her views, intentions, and actions.


Every woman should be treated with respect by family and friends Others should accept every woman as an equal and worthy human being.

Every woman has the right to say "No" without feeling guilty : You have limited energy and time and need to consider how you want to spend it, or you will not be happy, and the quality of your life will be reduced. This isn't selfish, but your right as a human being. You get to determine and shape the quality of your life by saying no to what you don't want and yes to what you want.


Every woman has a right to feel and express personal feelings , especially "negative" emotions. Not expressing these difficult emotions of anger and frustration can lead to guilt and frustration, so it's essential that they be expressed in personal relationships if they are to be healthy. Healthy relationships with people are built on sharing and discussing feelings, not hiding them. Women deserve healthy relationships.


Every woman has a right to take a break, calm down and think. You can ask for this if you need it. You can ask for space or time if necessary to make decisions. You may need rest to make decisions or before you give people responses. You may need rest and to take breaks in general. Everyone does to be their best. This is your right as a human.


Every woman has a right to change her mind  based on the newly received information. People around you should not label this as inconsistent or irresponsible, nor should you. This is an adaptive trait of flexible thinking. It is your right to change your mind.


Every woman has a right to ask for what she needs : Everyone has a right to express their needs without being afraid or judged, accused, or regarded as too bold. People around you can't be expected to read your mind, so if you have specific things you want or need, you have a right to ask for them.


Every woman has a right to do less. You get to decide what is too much and too little for you to do to avoid physical and mental exhaustion. Not only the right but the responsibility to care for your mental and physical health. You yourself get to decide in your life what is more or less important and to prioritize these things, and determine where you invest this energy.


Every woman has a right to ask for information. You should not be afraid to ask for information because you will be condescended to, treated with contempt or disrespect. It is best to ask questions to make important decisions about your life and succeed.

Every woman has a right to make mistakes.  Everyone makes mistakes and being afraid to make mistakes holds you back from doing things you need to do to be happy. It can prevent you from having moved forward in your life professionally and personally. You have a right to make mistakes.

Every woman has a right to feel good about herself. Knowing you have the above rights and pursuing them isn't selfish.

If someone is treating you as if you don't have these assertive rights, your rights are being violated.


Why being assertive is important References

Alberti, R. E., & Emmons, M. L. (2008). Your perfect right: Assertiveness and equality in your life and relationships (9th ed.). Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.

Ecaterina, P. (2017). ASSERTIVENESS: THEORETICAL APPROACHES AND BENEFITS OF ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOUR [Abstract]. Journal of Innovation in Psychology, Education and Didactic, Vol. 21,(1), 83-96.

Jinsi, A. J. (2006). Self Assertiveness and Emotional Intelligence of Higher Secondary Students. Unpublished M. Ed dissertation. Farook Training College, University of Calicut.

Gay, M. L., Hollandsworth, J. G., & Galassi, J. P. (1975). An assertiveness inventory for adults. 
Journal of Counseling Psychology, 22(4), 340–344. 

Kraft, W. A., Litwin, W. J., & Barber, S. E. (1986). Religious orientation and assertiveness: Relationship to death anxiety. The Journal of Social Psychology, 127, 93-95.

Peneva, I., & Mavrodiev, S. (2013). A historical approach to assertiveness. Psychological Thought, 6(1), 3-26. doi:10.5964/psyct.v6i1.14

Sheinov, V. P. (2014). Razrabotka testa assertivnosti, udovletvoriaiushchego trebovaniiam nadezhnos6 ti i validnosti [Development of the test of assertiveness, satisfying the requirements of reliability and validity]. Voprosy
psikhologii [Questions of psychology], no. 2, 107-116.

Stein, S. J, & Book, H. E. (2011). The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, 3rd Edition. Willey.

Smith, M. J. (1985). When I say no, I feel guilty. New York: Bantam Books.

Stein, S. J, & Book, H. E. (2011). The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, 3rd Edition. Willey.

Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by Reproach Inhibition. Stanford University Press: Stanford, California.

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