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Friendships and Assertiveness



As the general overview of self esteem already described, we change our thoughts and opinions based on the people around us. Therefore, having healthy friendships where you are supportive and happy can significantly improve your thoughts about yourself. Healthy friendships also relieve stress, help you cope with struggles, improve mental health, and encourage personal growth.

Qualities of a Healthy Friendship:

  • Equality

Each person should be equally capable of voicing their opinions and making decisions. One person should not feel less valuable than another.

  • Effort

The time and energy put into the friendship should be equal as well. If one person constantly reaches out while the other is unresponsive, it is not a healthy friendship.

  • Honesty

Honesty breeds trust, which is vital in a relationship. People in healthy friendships are honest about how they are feeling, honest about the mistakes they have made, genuine with their personality, and keep their word when they made a promise.

  • Respect

This includes respecting boundaries, and respecting the people that your friend cares about. The friends and family of your friend deserve respect.

  • Support

Friends should support each other for who they are, not who they could be. You should want your friend to succeed, and be willing to listen.

  • Compromise

Each person is different, so friends should make an effort to see the other person’s point of view and come to a decision they are both content with. Sometimes, you cannot compromise in a way that makes you both happy, and in that case give yourself space to reevaluate.

  • Comfort and Safety

Friends should not feel on edge or uncomfortable when they are together.

Qualities of an Unhealthy Friendship:

  • Jealousy and Possessiveness

Typically, this occurs when other friends come into the picture, and one friend is scared that the other will not pay as much attention to them. While those emotions are normal, it becomes unhealthy when one person dictates who the other hangs out with, or lashes out in anger when their friend hangs out with other people.

  • Supporting bad habits

If two friends bring out the worst in each other, that is unhealthy. For example, encouraging someone to stay up past their bedtime when they want to go to sleep. This only applies if they encourage the bad behavior, if you both suffer from the same struggles that is different.

  • Stress and exhaustion

As we mentioned before, healthy friendships reduce stress. So, if you feel stressed or exhausted around certain people, it may be a sign that your friendship is unhealthy. In particular, if you have frequent arguments with a friend, or feel as though you can never say the right thing, those situations cause stress.

  • Loneliness

If you constantly feel ignored, even when you are with your friend, and they never respond when you reach out, that is unhealthy. Friends should support each other and make time for the other person.

Note: If your friend continues to exhibit these unhealthy behaviors after you speak with them, that is something that they need to stop themselves. There is nothing you need to change about yourself to get your friend to be kinder.

Learn about emotional manipulation and gaslighting here.

If You Suspect You’re in an Unhealthy Friendship:

  • Set or communicate boundaries

Sometimes, people genuinely do not understand how their actions affect others, so clearly stating the problem is important. When you do so, use “I” statements to sound less accusatory. For example: I feel hurt and ignored when people don’t invite me to any group hang outs.

  • Take time away from them

If either person is too mad or aggressive to talk about the unhealthy friendship, spending time away from each other can help each person sort out their thoughts. Make sure to communicate that you need some space away from them to sort out your feelings, and that you’ll get back to them. If your mood and stress levels significantly improve after some time apart, that is a sign that the friendship actually was unhealthy.

Ending a Friendship:

  • Speak in person or on a call

If you talk to them in person or on a call, it feels more genuine for both parties and your tone is less likely to be misconstrued. Over text, messages are easily misinterpreted.

  • Practice

Go over exactly what you want to say, and write it down. Remember the reasons you are ending the friendship, and practice saying it out loud. It might also be helpful to get an unbiased person to practice on. Asking someone who has no opinion on the situation helps you stick to your decision.

  • Be direct

Do not beat around the bush, and be very clear when ending the friendship. It prevents the other person from feeling confused about your standings, and does not leave room for interpretation. You can give reasons for ending the friendship, though it depends on the situation.

  • Spend time with others

Consciously deciding to spend more time with friends and family reminds you that there are kind and supportive people in your life. If you choose to withdraw from others, you may feel hesitant to reconnect later due to your previous friendship. If you are hesitant to spend time with mutual friends, tell them that you separated from that person because the relationship had a negative effect on you. It does not have to be specific, you do not owe anyone an explanation.

  • Spend time on self care

Ending a friendship is emotionally exhausting, so taking care of yourself is important. Examples of self care can be found on this page.

Finding New Friends:

  • Join a group

Examples include clubs, sports teams, church groups, or study groups. You can also join online groups such as discord servers and video game chatrooms, but use discretion when giving out any information other than your first name.

  • Be present

When you have the chance to talk to an acquaintance, make sure to take it. Spending time with people is the only way to make a lasting relationship. In psychology, there is also a phenomenon called the mere exposure effect. It states that repeated exposure to someone over time makes them grow fond of you.

  • Ask questions

People enjoy talking about themselves, so asking about their hobbies and interests can help you get to know them.

  • Compliment others

Giving compliments to the person you are trying to befriend and other people makes you seem more approachable. It demonstrates that you value your new friend and the people in your life.

  • Practice listening

Listening intently while others are speaking lets them know you are interested in what they have to say. Remember to keep eye contact, use body language to show you are listening, and ask follow up questions.

  • Set a goal

Making reasonable goals for socialization each day can help you meet more people and feel proud of your progress. For example, saying hi to two strangers or holding a conversation with three of my acquaintances. 

Maintaining Friends:

  • Show your appreciation

Regularly being generous with your time will show them how much you care. In addition to simply spending time with them, envision what your friend would consider as kind. For example, if your friend is introverted, they may not enjoy large group outings as much as one on one time.

  • Repair damage after arguments

Give yourself some time to heal after disagreements, but do not leave reconciliation too long. If you made a mistake, apologize and acknowledge you were wrong. If they made a mistake, judge whether it is worth ending your friendship over. If it is not, forgive them. Finally, if they refuse to apologize, either process your emotions and accept that they will not admit fault, or end the friendship.

  • Do not make assumptions

If your friend is particularly annoyed one day, do not assume that it is your fault. Instead, think of other possible reasons for their unhappiness, such as parent problems, school problems, or exhaustion. Then, ask them what is wrong, or give them space for the day. Also, if you are feeling ignored, remember that people express affection in many different ways. The five love languages are physical touch, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and words of affirmation

  • Give advice when asked

Do not give advice on a situation unless the person explicitly asks for it. Sometimes people just want an ear to vent their problems, not a solution. It shows them respect, and saves you from stress. 


Standing up for yourself and being empathetic towards others without being too passive or too aggressive.


  • Gain respect for your own opinions

Communicating your needs and boundaries will garner respect from others, because it demonstrates confidence. When you are assertive, you understand what you need, and speak your mind. People respect that. Once other people start to uphold your boundaries, it becomes easier for you to respect them too.

  • Prevents others from exploiting you

If you do not set clear boundaries, people may take that as a sign that your opinions do not need to be considered when making decisions. They may also hurt you, and blame it on your lack of boundaries and communication.

  • Helps you face conflict

Practicing assertiveness allows you to be organized and upfront when expressing your needs. That way, you are able to participate in a civilized argument.

  • Protects you from excess stress

As mentioned before, a breach of boundaries can cause stress. Communicating effectively lessens the chance that your boundaries will be broken.

Learn about the different types of communication styles here.

Preparing for Assertiveness:

  • Check your communication style

On the link above, we go over the four communication styles, and there are questions below to help you understand your current style. If you relate to passive, aggressive, or passive aggressive types, that does not mean you are hopeless. This is the first step in the learning process. Also, keep in mind that many people are a mixture of all the styles.

– Do you consistently voice your opinions?

– What does your body language look like?

– Are you direct when speaking with others?

  • Identify if something upsets you and speak up

If applicable, you can reassess your boundary chart to identify actions that make you uncomfortable. Then, you have to gain the courage to speak up. The steps below can help you, and the chart here can help you overcome barriers that prevent us from being assertive.

  • Start small

Trying to tackle a difficult and complex situation right away may leave you stressed and discouraged. Therefore, start with a low stakes situation to build your confidence. For example, someone taking the last cookie when you wanted it.

  • Rehearse what you will say

Organization is key when discussing any issue.

– Focus on one idea

Instead of bombarding a friend with multiple problems, just focus on one idea. For example, if you feel uncomfortable when people call you late at night, focus on the idea that you need your sleep. Save any other grievances for a different conversation.

– Keep it factual

Avoid the generalization of situations and name calling when speaking to them. For example, instead of saying “You never show up on time, you’re so rude,” say “I arrived at 11 and now it is 12 o’clock.”

– Format: Event, Effects, Feelings, Needs, Compromise (if possible)

When compromise is impossible, brainstorm a solution with the other person.


Event- I received your call at 12:00 am

Effect- I woke up and felt tired the next day

Feelings- I feel frustrated and grumpy when people call me late at night

Needs- I have to get 8-9 hours of sleep to be awake and productive the next day

Compromise- I’m usually available around lunch, how about you call me then?

  • Use “I” statements and strong verbs

Statements that start with “you” may come off more confrontational than intended. Therefore, use “I” statements. Instead of saying “You need to stop commenting on my clothes,” say “I feel insecure when people comment on my clothes.” Also, instead of using words like could and would, use will. “I should be getting more sleep” sounds less confident than “I will need more sleep.”

  • Give them the benefit of the doubt

Refrain from assuming that the other person is trying to hurt you or intentionally crossing your boundaries. It may come as a surprise to them.

  • Be aware of body language

People judge how others are feeling by their body language more than their words. If someone says they are happy while frowning, we would trust the body language and ask what’s wrong. Examples of calm and confident body language include:

– Eye contact

– Calm, low voice

– Genuine smile or neutral expression

– Shoulders back and relaxed

– Good posture

-No crossed arms or legs

  • Use positive self talk

For specific assertiveness self talk, visit this link. For general self talk help, go to this page.

  • Practice with someone you trust

Pick an unbiased and safe person to practice with. They can act as a blank slate to bounce ideas off of.

Being Assertive:

  • Speak to them alone

It alleviates the pressure of other people judging you and giving input. Also, your friend is able to give their full attention to you.

  • Keep calm

Discussing issues in an emotional state can cause you to say and do things you don’t mean. So, never start a discussion if you are not calm. If you begin to get upset in the middle of a conversation, inform them that you need to discuss it later and process your emotions. If you don’t do this, emotions can affect you in a number of ways.

– Tunnel vision

Intense emotions can give you tunnel vision, where you only focus on your own thoughts and impulses instead of the future ahead of you. Yelling might feel good in the moment, but it can have consequences later.

– Blaming

When we are hurt or in pain, we want someone to be held accountable, because it is harder to accept that something is out of our control.

– Jumping to conclusions

Certain emotions can make us feel uncomfortable, and naturally we want to eliminate that discomfort quickly. Therefore, we jump to conclusions to immediately understand the source of our discomfort and stop it.

  • Say no to unreasonable requests

This can be difficult for a number of reasons: you don’t want to lose your friendships, you don’t want to disappoint or hurt people, maybe your past has taught you not to stick up for yourself, or you don’t want to seem incompetent. However, all healthy friendships require you to say no at times, because it protects you from stress and built up resentment.

– Remember your rights

The document here lists some of the rights you have when being assertive. Before saying no, reviewing these true statements can keep you from feeling guilty.

– Decline kindly

Alternatives to “no”: I’m not able to do that, thanks but that isn’t going to work for me, that’s not the best idea for me personally, or unfortunately I can’t. Be polite but do not apologize.

– Give gratitude

Examples: Thank you for asking since that might have been unclear, or thank you for bringing that up so we can be on the same page.

– Offer an explanation or alternative

These two are optional, because we are not always comfortable with giving

explanations, and there may not be alternatives. Nevertheless, an example would be “I don’t like hugs because they make me feel uncomfortable, why don’t you fist bump me instead?”

  • Give them time to respond

People need time to process new information, especially if you have never been assertive before. You can even say “I’ll give you some time to think about all this, thank you for listening.” They may not give a response for a while, and during that time practice self care. After the conversation, you may also want to self evaluate on your assertiveness skills. That can be done here.

Reflection Survey

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