In the lead-up to my Assertiveness Webinar early last month

I was interviewed by Fiona Lewis, a highly successful internet marketer and entrepreneur for her podcast series on the topic of Assertiveness.

You Can Listen To The Podcast Here:

And, whilst, this is really BIG topic, I thought I’d sit down and pen a few lines to give you some tips and ideas on understanding the pain of doing it as well as how to use it more powerfully and positively to grow your confidence and relationships with others.


If you have ever felt like you didn’t give something your best or you would have liked a second chance to say something to someone in a different way, then that is your cue that you should have been assertive.

It is important to understand that being assertive doesn’t mean you assert yourself at every given opportunity. That would be called “aggressive behaviour”.

Assertiveness is saying what you want and mean to say in a way that is respectful and mindful of the person you are interacting with.

And, for the sake of peace and harmony in life, asserting yourself is about ensuring balance and learning which battles to fight and which wars to stay away from. You don’t need to assert yourself at every opportunity.

The problem is when you don’t assert yourself and you know you should

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The consequence of not asserting yourself is that you create self-doubt, self-anger and may even have anger and other negative emotions towards others. All of which results in stress. And, stress is a growing phenomenon in the modern world, with figures of depression, disease and break-down in relationships seemingly spiralling out of control.

 “The impact of absenteeism in the workplace in Australia is estimated at $14.81 billion pa”]. Stress is directly costing employers $10.11billion a year in absenteeism and presenteeism (Medibank Private, 2008).

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Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when an employee comes to work but is too ill or otherwise affected to be productive. Six days per year are lost on average per employee to presenteeism and three point two days a year are lost per employee due to stress related absence.

A Newspoll Omnibus Survey commissioned by Lifeline Australia (2008) indicated that

“91% of Australian feels stress in one aspect of their lives. Work was the cause of stress for 72% of respondents.”

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The great news is that if you are able to stay calm, control your emotions and speak honestly and openly, you more often than not get a good result AND stay on top of your stress both personally and professionally.


By becoming more aware of the signals your mind, body and brain are giving you when you are in a conversation with someone, you will learn to recognise and decide when an assertive approach is needed.
Some examples could include:

  1. 1
    If you absolutely feel like the other person is saying something that you don’t agree with and you are busting a gut to say something, then, that is probably an opportunity to speak up.
  2. 2
    If you feel like someone has crossed one of your boundaries, that might be a signal to say something


  1. 1
    Feelings bubbling up in you, which could be anything from anger, hurt, resentment to shock – they would not tend to be overly positive (emotions)
  2. 2
    Your body starts tensing up, you notice your heart rate increasing and you may start to sweat (body)
  3. 3
    If you feel like someone has crossed one of your boundaries, that might be a signal to say something

When all 3 (emotions, body and brain) of these elements come together, you experience stress. Your brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone and things start to go downhill….

By recognising the signals as they start to happen, you can start to take back your control and limit the pain and damage that happens when you react.

You can make the choice to assert yourself or you could choose to walk away and let the issue go. It’s really all up to you.


There are so many reasons why people don’t speak up more, but often it has to do with our need to be socially connected with others. We are wired for human connection. And, when that connection is threatened, we often move into lock down or ramp up mode (flight or fight).

And for a lot of us, particularly in a work scenario, it would be a seriously career limiting move to ramp up and start shouting and throwing things around! So, very often we resort to passive-aggressiveness or passive resistance.

Either way, this response is not helpful for you or the situation because you are not being open and honest. Over time, this starts to affect your self-esteem (the picture you have of yourself) which in turn affects your levels of confidence and being able to resolve your personal and professional issues.

One of the most common reasons people hold back from speaking up is due to what I call the FEAR Factor

And, the reality is that we may very well lose a relationship when we stand up for ourselves and remain true to our integrity. We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves and the way we react and respond in relationships.

“Is your fear holding you back?”

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The great news is that if you are able to stay calm, control your emotions and speak honestly and openly, you more often than not get a good result.


Johan Assaraf, brain trainer and neuroscience expert who contributed to “The Secret” ran a webinar on how to re-train your brain for success a few months ago that I got up at 4 am to listen to. It was awesome!

During the webinar, one of the speakers, Dr Joan Rosenberg, creator of Emotional Mastery™ and Emotional Mastery Training™, and a psychologist, master clinician, trainer and consultant shared a fabulous tip when it comes to controlling your emotions. She says that our feelings come in waves and they last 90 seconds in intensity (on average).

So, what we have to do is we have to ride the wave of emotion for 90 seconds.
What that will do is allow the message to get from our amygdala (our centre for survival and responsible for our fight vs flight reactions) to get to our frontal lobe/cortex which is responsible for language, problem-solving and decision-making and allow us to come up with an objective and rational response.


No, I know it’s not that simple. It does take awareness that you are experiencing the intense emotion BEFORE you can do anything about it. And, often-times, your emotional hot buttons are pushed so quickly and unexpectedly that you don’t have a chance to gather your thoughts to harness your feelings.

The more you practice being self-aware, the greater the chances that you will give yourself the opportunity to speak honestly and openly.

So, how do you build your self-awareness to get the point where you can control your feelings and your thoughts to positive ends?


One of the ways I advocate to developing your self-awareness is taking the time to pause every day. If you take few minutes at the end or beginning of each day to reflect on what’s happened and your response to situations, you are able to gather important information to help you solve the challenges you face.

You can move yourself from the pain of emotion to the power of self-control.

And this is a good thing. For your self-esteem and confidence and the relationships in both your professional and personal life.

Each small win builds your confidence in yourself that you CAN overcome each and every challenge you face. This in turn creates momentum in all areas of your life, as Fiona shares in the podcast.


- What tips do you have for controlling your emotions in difficult situations?

- What success stories have you got around having an assertive conversation that ended positively?

Assertiveness is a symptom of a larger social issue: too much pressure to be bigger and better than you actually are.  This article has addressed some of the core reasons why we don’t speak up when we know we should.  It has also included tools and tips to help you identify and implement positive steps to being more authentic.  

I would encourage you to connect with yourself in a regular, authentic and connected way so that the social pressures to be more, act more than we actually are can be recognised and you can make a positive choice to be yourself, every time.

If you are serious about addressing assertiveness and want to learn more about developing your Assertiveness, then check out my online Assertiveness Programme: 2 Weeks to a More Assertive You 

Until next time, I will

See you at the top!

Kerry Anne

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October 1, 2014

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