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How to be more assertive in your relationship

Assertiveness gets a bad rep, but it’s an essential ingredient to a mature, lasting relationship. If one of you or either of you is unable to show up assertively in your everyday life, you cannot consistently rely on yourself or each other. The dark side of being “nice”, “shy”, or a “people pleaser” is that you are stuck hoping for the other person to notice your needs through mind reading, or you need to subtly manipulate them to get what you want.

Neither of these options is optimal and they gradually chip away at your confidence and sense of dignity.

There’s a much better way of going about things, and that is by building assertiveness without losing sight of what really matters here: the relationship: you and your partner, rather than just one of you.

Embrace the assertive and kind mindset

The reason why assertiveness has acquired such a negative association is that we usually think of it as arrogance and lacking in compassion. Which isn’t far from the truth, when it’s built on the concept of hyper-individuality.

The western world is highly individual-oriented, rather than community- or family-oriented, which unsurprisingly impacts our love life too. Even in the health and wellness world, there’s a tendency to demonise interrelated tendencies and emphasize individual wealth, achievements, and spiritual practices that often lead to dissociation and separation.

The problem with this is that this is not how we’ve evolved as a species or how we thrive.

So if you take issue with the idea of becoming assertive, because you’ve seen far too many people who have and lost a touch of empathy and compassion along the way, you’re not wrong. I’ll share with you another way to build assertiveness.

You can show up assertively, build those healthy boundaries and still feel acceptance and compassion towards yourself and your partner. Parenting is probably the best analogy for it. For children to develop appropriately need discipline and love. Favour only one of them and there will be negative consequences down the line.

Just as you can have two different attitudes when you tell your child to go to bed or do their homework: basically feel connected and loving towards them as you say it but have an assertive voice and posture, you can do it in your love life too.

It’s not a one or the other. It’s skilfully combining the two that transforms your relationship and creates a more mature and nurturing environment for both of you.

Build assertiveness through the body

Now that we have a new way of looking at assertiveness, let’s get down to some body-based practices that will allow you to experience a new way of being and then practice it until it becomes second nature.

Your posture, way of breathing, your gaze, your voice all have an impact on how you feel. Basically your mind informs the body about the level of threat detected in the environment, and the body informs the brain as well. Which is why changing your posture, your breathing rhythm, or your gaze can can change your mental state. In other words, you can feel more assertive if you stand, walk, talk, breath differently.

You might have heard of the social phycologist Amy Cuddy (et al.)’s work on high-power and low-power poses. If you are slumping and making yourself very small, it negatively impacts your confidence. But if you get into a power pose, such as the Wonder Woman pose: legs wide apart, standing up straight, with hands on the hips, eyes wide open and looking confidently, it will shape the way you feel. Start practicing it and can slowly become a trait not just a fleeting experience.

Now, in your relationship, you might want to be able to confidently say no, rather than communicate maybe or yes while feeling resentful about them not noticing what you really want. Here’s a pose you can practice daily to increase the capacity to say no assertively and to build that trait.

  • Legs a bit wider than shoulder width apart. One leg forward, one back like a warrior pose, but not as wide. About 60% of your weight in on the front leg.
  • The same arm as the font leg held out straight in front of your heart. The other hand in a fist, next to the hip.
  • Torso straight. (Don’t lean forward, backward, or sideways.)
  • Palms facing forward, as if trying to stop someone.
  • Gaze forward and focussed.

First, start with some investigation. How familiar is it? Not the pose itself, the feeling it gives you. Is it comfortable or not? Is this a feeling you can associate with something? Does any story or sensation come up?

Then come out of it and shake it off.

Now, as you return ask yourself where you might need a little more of it in your relationship. And how you think it would benefit you both. And here comes the relational aspect: staying in the pose, say “no and I love you” imagining that your partner is there asking for something that you cannot do or choose not to do. Say it assertively and at the same time feel the love you have for them.

Practice it for a minute a day for the next few weeks or months. You can also bring to mind scenarios where this assertiveness would have served you and reimagine that memory with yourself showing up assertively.

Nurture your assertiveness

Practice isn’t application!

It’s essential that you practice it in a non-consequential setting. You can add it to your daily yoga or morning practice but don’t try apply what you’ve learned in your relationship immediately, because when we’re stressed we cannot use new skills, we revert to overlearned, automatic behaviour. So the chances of you being able to apply what you’ve learned immediately are quite slim, which can lead to disappointed and possibly giving up.

Practice it on your own, the you might even visualise a situation with your partner where you need this assertiveness while feeling connected and loving towards them, and only after you’ve been doing this for a few weeks, try it with them and even then in a less stressful context.

This is what learning and nurturing is! Start small and gradually increase the level of intensity and you’ll see miraculous changes in your level of assertiveness and how people respond to you.


Assertiveness is such a misunderstood skill, which is why a lot of women avoid building or nurturing it. They fear that it might negatively impact their relationship, but the truth is the opposite. If you want to have a thriving and emotionally mature relationship, building assertiveness is your best choice of achieving it.

Being assertive means that you will be able to voice your needs instead of using complaint or manipulation, and it will also communicate to your partner that they can rely on you to express what you want without them having to figure it out or be punished later.

Do you need personalised support?

If you’re interested in honing your embodied relational intelligence skills to build a loving, mature, and lasting romantic relationship either with your current partner or the one you commit to next, reach out.

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