“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion….unless acted upon by an outside force.” That’s Newton’s First Law of Motion. Basic science tells us that resistance is a common response to change, whether we’re talking about the movement of an object, or human behavior. Unless some “outside force” pushes us to change, we just won’t. That’s because it’s hard to change. We are more comfortable doing things the way we are used to doing them.

Right now you have two choices: Either change and become more assertive, or continue to live with your aggressive or deferring communication style. One result of aggression or deference is low self-esteem while the result of assertion is high self-esteem. If you want to feel better about yourself on a daily basis, becoming assertive is one step you can take to make it happen. But you must first overcome the obstacles you will encounter to make change happen in your life.

Here are five steps to help you overcome obstacles to change that we will cover in this post:

1. Agree to change
2. Practice being the person you want to be
3. Improve daily behavior
4. Make a new set of rules
5. Practice saying affirmations

Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to overcome obstacles to change.

Agree to change. The first step in overcoming obstacles to change is to stop saying you do not use aggressive or deferring behavior. If you notice that people avoid or stay away from you, that’s a sign that you need to change. Turning people off is a high price to pay just to have things go your way. Aggressive people are often sure they are right and, therefore, feel no need to change. Admitting that you need to change and doing something about it is the first step to becoming more assertive.


Practice being the person you want to be. Imagine you’re a basketball player and your coach tells you that you need to change your form. He says that you’ll make 25% more baskets if you just change your shooting style. He shows you the correct way to shoot the ball. You try it and miss. It feels all wrong to you. You are not used to the motion so you’re tempted to go back to your old shooting style. But you don’t. Instead, you keep practicing this new way of shooting. The more you practice, the more comfortable it feels, and, soon enough, the shots do start to fall. Use this concept when it comes to changing your behavior. It may feel unnatural at first to use your new communication style, but don’t give up!


Improve daily behavior. As you practice being the assertive person you want to be, you will notice yourself doing things differently. The way you talk to people and the way you react to situations will be calmer, more direct, and more respectful. Honest, assertive behavior is very rewarding because it feels good to have others react well to you. As you start to see positive results from your new way of communicating, take note. Ask yourself, “What did I do right and how can I do that again and again?”

Make a new set of rules. Just as any board game or sport has a rule book, you have a rule book for life. It is what tells you how to play the game, what moves to make, and how to interact with other players. However, unlike the rule book of a board game, you have the advantage of being able to change the rules in your rule book. Decide how you want to act in stressful situations, and make that a new rule. Once you have made new, assertive rules for reacting to stressful situations, they will become, through practice, a new set of behaviors.


Practice saying affirmations. Changing your behavior starts with your thoughts. Just as an athlete has to think positive thoughts in order to perform well, we must have positive thoughts about our behavior in order to behave the way we want. Positive self-talk or affirmations will help you to change your behavior.

In order to put your new rules for behavior into action, write them down in the form of affirmation statements. The key to writing effective affirmation statements is to use the first person, or “I,” when you write. Keep your affirmations short, positive, and simple. Be sure to put them in the present tense – “I do” phrases, rather than “I will.” These affirmations will slowly become your new rules for behavior. Your affirmation statements might feel uncomfortable at first, but stick with it! After a short time, your negative or bad thoughts will become quieter, and your positive or good thoughts about yourself will become louder. These affirmations will support the changes you are making in your behaviors.

Here are some examples of powerful affirmation statements:

  • I have the right to ask for what I want.
  • I share my feelings with others.
  • I am growing and becoming more assertive
  • I control my choices.
  • I like who I am.
  • I make good decisions.
  • I have the right to control my own actions.
  • I say “no” or “yes” when I want to.
  • I communicate positively without hurting myself or others.
  • I have the right to be me.

Use these affirmations to change your thinking and your behavior. Remember not to fear the new changes that you are making in your life. Remind yourself that while change can be scary, it is the only way you can become the person you want to be. So, embrace change, become more assertive and watch your self-esteem soar.

If you want to learn more about developing or teaching soft skills, sign up for our free Soft Skills 101 webinar!