You wanted Italian but agreed to burgers. You hate scary movies but sat through two hours of complete horror. And you took on the bulk of a project you thought was a bad idea in the first place because, let’s face it, sometimes you’d rather jump into an ice-cold lake than deal with confrontation. But dry yourself off; there will be no more cold lakes. Here’s how to be assertive without feeling like a jerk.

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Give yourself time to actually think about your answer
Whether it’s coming from your kids, your mother-in-law or your coworker, don’t feel obligated to answer a tough question on the spot. A simple “Let me think about it” puts all the negotiating power back in your control and keeps you from staying extra late at work picking up Todd’s slack.

Be straightforward
Even if you think every muscle in your face is expressing how you feel about your steak (it’s completely overdone), you can’t trust everyone around you to decipher your inner thoughts. Holding in your feelings can come across as passive-aggressive, and you did pay $45 for that steak, girl.

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Ask that question even if you think it sounds stupid (seriously)
Let’s be honest: In most cases, if you’re thinking it, someone else is, too. If you bury all your questions or concerns away, they might wind up boiling to the surface down the road.

If you disagree with something, speak up and explain why
It is 100 percent A-OK to have a different opinion than everybody else in the room. Just back it up with your reasoning so you don’t seem like you’re being a naysayer for the sake of it. Plus, it helps people see things from your perspective.

Practice being assertive in small situations
When your hairdresser asks you, “how’s the water temperature?” respond honestly. Or when the barista mistakenly adds syrup to your order while you’ve been so diligently laying off the sugar, let them know. Those small day-to-day assertions make sticking up for yourself to, say, your boss, so much easier.

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