On one of my trawls through the Kindle 'recommended for you' titles was a book I'd never seen, by a guy I'd never heard of, written 24 years before I was born. Manuel J Smith wrote a text called "When I say no, I feel guilty" first published in 1975. Now even though it was last updated around the time Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City, it's just as relevant today as it was back then. Technology changes, but people stay the same.

In his work, Manuel talks about assertiveness as an alternative to the passive/aggressive routine most humans succumb to. He defines assertiveness as a way of communication that enables you to express your needs, opinions, and emotions while respecting the rights of others.

Easier said than done, right?

One tool of understanding assertiveness was to look inwards before looking out. Manuel crafted what is beautifully titled the "Bill of Assertive Rights".

However, some of the language has since dated. So, I've refreshed the rules to match the modern world and my own biases. These are eight rules for assertiveness that will kick that passive-aggressive asshole to the kerb, make you more confident in your ability to communicate, and stop you resenting yourself and others.

Without further ado, I present ...


Rule 1. You have the right to your thoughts, behaviour, and emotions, and you must take responsibility for the consequences of these thoughts and actions.

In an ideal world, every human would speak their mind while being respectful of others. You may not agree with what someone says, but you would assert your disagreement, accept that they are entitled to their opinion, and you would agree to disagree. The world would be happy.

In today's politically correct environment, swathes of easily offended puff cakes are seeking to get hurt over every little comment. I've done my fair share of offending people and will continue to do so because I passionately believe in saying what needs to be said, not what people want to hear.

However, it is up to me to be respectful of others' rights, and if I do cross a line, I need to wear the consequences of that. None of this 'drop a grenade and bug out' crap. If you want to have the ability to assert yourself effectively, you need to own whatever may come as a result, good or bad.

Shoot your shot. Speak your truth. Whatever you want to call it.

Rule 2. You have the right to say no.

There is nothing wrong with saying no. No to that coffee catch up, to that speaking engagement, to that piece of work, to anything. It is well within your right to assert yourself, and say no.

In his book "Anything You Want", Derek Sivers provides a life-changing philosophy.

If it's not a hell yes, it's a no.

I know it's a sensitive topic for some, but this is immensely powerful in the realm of dating. I genuinely enjoy the process of dating - getting to know someone, the ins and outs of their hobbies, their passions, and dislikes. But let's face it; you can tell on a first date whether you're into someone or not. It truly is a hell yes, or a no. There is no ifs or maybes. If it's not a "hell yes", it's a "no". You can drag it out for weeks or months, but in the end, you knew on day one.

So instead of saying "hey that was great, let's catch up again" while secretly wanting to bolt away, be honest and assert yourself. "It was nice meeting you, but I'm not feeling a spark here. I wish you good fortune in the dates to come." Yes, I lifted a line from Game of Thrones. Anyways, it may seem harsh, but you have a right to say no at any time, which leads into ...

Rule 3. You have the right to offer no reasons, excuses, or justifications for your behaviour.

You don't need to justify yourself to anyone but yourself. Sure, there may be consequences for saying a flat no to something, but you don't owe anyone anything.