A confident and assertive person is a powerful individual who knows their value. You don’t have to be extrovert or loud to be confident — it’s more of a state of mind that allows you to know your opinion matters and what you have to say is important says Paul Haarman.

It’s okay not to be perfect.

What do you think of when I mention the word “assertive”? If your mind raced to images of someone yelling at a crowd or being demanding and completely unreasonable, guess what? You should probably read this! Being assertive doesn’t have anything to do with being overly rude or pushing people around. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When you’re assertive, you communicate in a way that is truthful but also respectful toward others by turning your wants into requests and stating your feelings in a calm manner while also making sure their rights are respected too. To put it simply — being assertive means making sure you stand up for yourself without stepping on anybody else. This isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, but it’s also not as hard as you might think.

If you’re interested in becoming more assertive and confident, here are six practical tips that will help you with this process:

1. Know Your Audience

This one is huge. If we don’t consider the people we’re interacting with, we’ll come across as aggressive and even unstable (and no one wants to be associated with those traits). Make sure to take the context of your situation into account before speaking up or acting out — whether its work related or if you’re simply talking to a friend. Ask yourself questions like “Are they calm enough to deal with my issue?” or “Is this really worth causing a scene?” Sometimes these questions alone can make all the difference.

2. Commit to Yourself

If you truly want to become more assertive, you’ll need to make a commitment to yourself that this is what you want and are willing to work for it. (Believe me — I’ve failed at this before.) Practice your assertiveness skills in small ways like asking for what you want when ordering food or talking about something that’s bothering you with someone close to you. Once it starts feeling easier, move on to bigger issues that affect your life explains Paul Haarman. And no matter how long it takes, remember not to give up!

3. Notice you’re Self-Talk

The way we talk to ourselves can really impact how we feel overall and even our behavior so if the words running through your mind aren’t the most positive, it’s time to change that. You might be doing great with being assertive in your life, but if you’re constantly saying things to yourself like “I can’t do this!” or “What am I even talking about?” then it won’t come off as genuine. So every time a negative thought pops up, stop yourself and replace it with something more positive.

4. Practice Positivity

It’s easy to associate being assertive with anger-driven words and actions because those are the kinds of people we see shouting on the street corners during protests or yelling at their kids for spilling milk all over the floor (my dad is one of them). But that isn’t how it should be — that kind of behavior is more aggressive than assertive. You can still be positive while being assertive, so try using words that inspire confidence in yourself rather than pushing people away with intimidating language.

5. Don’t Make Assumptions

If you don’t know the answer to something, it’s okay to say you don’t know instead of just trying to guess or making things up says Paul Haarman. There are plenty of people out there who will admire your honesty and trustworthiness for admitting when you’re not sure about something (and if someone doesn’t like that about you then they might not be the best person to be around anyway). If anything else, saying “I don’t know” is a great way to avoid unnecessary conflict — perfect for all those times you’re not about that drama.

6. Know Your Limits

So what if you feel everyone is watching you — do you have a right mind to believe they aren’t? I know it can be tough when we get caught in the spotlight, but the way we present ourselves is ultimately our responsibility. So instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything going on around us, let’s figure out what will help us feel more comfortable and confident with whom we are (like keeping an eye on our social media accounts or having some alone time).

Conclusion:

Assertiveness is the act of expressing yourself, your thoughts, and your needs without violating another person’s rights says Paul Haarman. It’s not about being loud or aggressive — it’s actually closer to kindness than anything else. But when you’re nice to others, they can sometimes get confused about what you really want so it might take some time before they learn how to respond in a way that respects you in return. Just stay positive and see where things go!