While some people may view assertiveness as a negative trait, it’s actually one of the best techniques you can master.
Learning to be more confident can improve your quality of life at home and work. But, it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone.
So, if you want to start speaking your mind (in the right way), here are some of the best books on assertiveness to get you going.
The Best Books on Assertiveness
1. When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: Hope to Cope Using the Skills of Systematic Assertive Therapy – Manuel J. Smith
As the title suggests, this book teaches you how to say no, a key cornerstone of assertiveness. Many people feel the need to say yes to please others, but this often comes at personal expense.
Manuel Smith teaches you techniques for dealing with the guilt of saying no. In turn, you’ll learn how to be assertive and to speak your mind. Smith uses real-world examples from everyday life, such as dealing with children, family members, and colleagues.
Smith was a leading psychologist involved with the birth of assertive training, and this text is foundational in the field. In that sense, it’s an ideal starting point for anyone hoping to learn about the subject.
But, this comes at a cost. The book was first published in 1975 and suffers from “academic syndrome”. Its sentences are long and its language is quite dense. It’s very much a product of its time, but if you can get past this you’re bound to learn a lot.
- A foundational text in the field of assertiveness
- Uses real-world examples for context
- Explains how and why its techniques work
- Language is quite dense and dated
2. The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships – Randy J. Paterson
This book argues that communication is key to success – both personally and professionally. Being assertive is essential for proper communication, and you can’t have one without the other.
It uses cognitive behavioural therapy to help you identify when you experience confidence failures. Once you’re aware of these situations, you can begin applying its techniques to overcome them.
Importantly, it teaches you how to set personal boundaries and deal with other people. These are two main areas where people lack assertiveness, making its information invaluable.
You’ll find examples from real-life settings along with exercises and checklists that teach you how to deal with them. In short, it’s an actionable book with useful information.
As with Smith’s text, the main downside is its lack of accessibility. This is a shame considering it’s meant to be “real-world”, but if you can get past the language you’ll find some very useful information.
- Excellent real-world examples
- Uses CBT
- Combines exercises and checklists
- Not very accessible
3. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself – Nedra Glover
Unsurprisingly, this book teaches you how to set boundaries in order to gain assertiveness in social situations. It looks at professional and personal relationships and how to harness diplomacy effectively.
Glover is a trained counsellor and therapist who’s built a large social media following. As a result, she knows how to speak to her audience. If accessibility and ease of reading is a big concern, this might be the book for you.
It uses CBT and current research to help you identify and understand boundaries, and how to set them. You’ll find common examples and high-utility techniques.
The book is very digestible, but some may find it lacking in self-accountability. Many of its examples frame others as the culprit, which isn’t always the case. Providing you’re aware of this, it should be a very helpful book.
- Easy to read
- Uses CBT
- Explains boundary issues based on specific circumstances
- Lacks a level of self-accountability
4. The Art of Everyday Assertiveness: Speak Up. Say No. Set Boundaries. Take Back Control. – Patrick King
The title’s format should give you some idea of the book’s tone. It’s a very assertive text that puts you centre-stage. Self-accountability is arguably a key component of its message.
It looks at what makes us lack assertiveness, whether it’s the desire to please others or a lack of confidence. Once identified, it encourages you to work through a 28-day action plan to work on your weaknesses.
Unlike other books in this genre, it teaches you how to become more emotionally intelligent. It argues that understanding the motivations of others helps explain why they try to take advantage. In turn, you can then notice these patterns and legislate for them.
King is a trained psychologist and counsellor, meaning his advice comes from professional experience. He combines this with common examples to provide information in a format you might not find elsewhere.
However, this isn’t without drawbacks. Some may find its style very simplistic and “in your face”. It’s written for a particular market, meaning it won’t appeal to everyone.
- Clear, simple language
- Takes a different angle on assertiveness
- Based on King’s professional experience
- Written for quite a specific market
5. Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others – Judy Murphy
Murphy’s book breaks the concept of assertiveness down in important ways. She first identifies what we actually mean by this word and then differentiates it from being passive and aggressive.
While the distinction might seem obvious, it’s one many people can’t make. Importantly, Murphy highlights that being assertive isn’t about being liked, it’s about being respected.
After this, she covers the different aspects of assertiveness and teaches you how to identify them in your own language. Then, you can consciously work on embodying the trait.
It’s a clear and simple book with a logical structure. Its main drawback is that some of its case studies are a bit unrealistic. This is a shame considering the book is well-written, and there are more than enough actual examples Murphy could’ve used.
- Logical structure
- Clear and simple language
- Short and easy to read
- Examples are unrealistic
Learning assertiveness requires you to consciously identify it in your thoughts and actions. Many struggle with this because they misunderstand what assertiveness really is.
Hopefully, making your way through one (or several) of the books mentioned above will help you work on this powerful personality trait.