How to Become More Assertive to Seize Opportunities

“In the long run we get no more than we have been willing to risk giving.” ~Sheldon Kopp

It was a foggy day in the city. We decided to go to the Science Academy in San Francisco—me and the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known.

We entered the aquarium. There was a blissful haze surrounding the room. There was a swirl of people going around. Yet, everything went into slow-motion. It was like there was an imaginary spotlight on her, and I gave her my full attention.

I was mesmerized by her voice, eyes, and everything about her, really. Then suddenly there was a deep sensation in my brain that I had not felt for so many years. I was in love with her.

As we continued to explore and talk, I had a few opportunities to share my feelings with her. And there were many opportunities when I could have kissed her. But I didn’t. I didn’t do either.

Have you ever had the feeling you missed out on a life-changing moment? Have you ever had an experience when you knew you could have taken action but you didn’t?

Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t do something to show her my true feelings.

She lived far away from me, and a couple days later, she flew back home.

I realized a long-term relationship would have been hard, but I simply wanted to share how I felt. I just didn’t have it in me to take action when the opportunity came.

Over time, my disappointment dissipated because I got busy with my life. However, when I had time to think again, that scene kept playing over and over in my head. Then a wave of regret would strike me. I’d start over-analyzing and thinking, “What if?”

I realized I didn’t want to have to think that again and that the key was learning to be more assertive.

I found an article about this game called Rejection Therapy. The only rule is to simply get rejected once a day for thirty days straight. I promised myself that I would try this out.

I started a blog to hold myself accountable. As the days go by, I want to spread the word to continue to raise my personal accountability level.

This concept has enabled me to take chances that I never could have imagined. I have already been rejected by my friends, possible love interests, strangers having a bad day, my own thoughts, and my family.

However, this experience has benefited me greatly. I initiated contact with strangers who are now my study partners in class. I asked for help when I needed it from professors.

I have done things that brought smiles to people having a boring, routine day. I have been able to introduce myself to others in a more confident way. I even got the opportunity to create this post for Tiny Buddha.

If you need a little help putting yourself out there and becoming more assertive, you may find these reminders helpful:

1. Not trying guarantees you won’t get what you want.

Part of the reason why people hesitate to make an initial move in any situation is their fear of rejection.

If you’re in a big group of people and want to share your idea, you face the fear of rejection. If you want to share your feelings with someone you care about, you face the fear of rejection. If you want to ask for a promotion in a job, you face the fear of rejection.

However, if you do not act, you’ll never know if they would’ve accepted your offer. Not being assertive and letting the moment slip away gives you a 100% chance of not getting what you want.

2. People aren’t looking to hurt you.

Many of the negative outcomes we imagine are, in fact, imaginary. The majority of people are going to be polite once you say “hi” to them or initiate conversation. Many times people will do what they can to fulfill your request.

From what I’ve experienced, people feel terrible if they have to reject you, but sometimes it is a good thing when they do. You wouldn’t want a potential date to accept your invitation unless the person was interested, right?

3. We don’t need other people’s approval.

The girl you tried to talk to tells you to get lost. The group laughs at your idea. These are risks worth taking to seize possibilities.

4. Strangers around the situation aren’t paying attention.

Sometimes when we hold back, it’s because we feel self conscious with people watching. But think about it—do strangers really care about what you’re doing? Most of the time, they’re not even paying attention. If they are, so what? Does it really matter?

I started conversing with someone on the bus today and so many people turned their heads toward me that I thought I woke everyone up. I decided to tune them out because their thoughts didn’t affect the outcome of my conversation.

Even if they had some sort of judgment, they were entitled to that. It didn’t affect me.

5. The three-second rule can work wonders.

Ideally, it is good to talk to someone within three seconds of seeing them so that anxiety can’t form in your mind. Once more time elapses, it becomes more difficult. Save yourself the trouble and act as soon as the instinct arises.

6. Accept mistakes and don’t be too hard on yourself.

I’m pretty sure I have said things that were a bit awkward or with the wrong tone of voice. Making mistakes is a part of learning how to become assertive.

At some point, everyone has said something that felt like the wrong thing. No matter how badly you messed up, feel positive about yourself because you took a chance.

7. Realize your negative thoughts aren’t facts.

Nothing holds us back like negative self-talk. Find your own personal way to overcome the negative idea.

It may help to mentally isolate the negative emotion and realize it’s separate from you. What works for me is to imagine a metaphorical mirror that reflects everything I suspect people are thinking about me. I then put a cover over the mirror to avoid that trap. Our actions and words stem from our mindset.

When I have a hard time being assertive, I remember that moment when I didn’t share my feelings and a girl I loved slipped away. Then I ask myself: Would I would rather risk rejection or have to wonder, “What if?”

Photo by m.gifford

About Matt Ramos

Matt Ramos is a college student who wants to make the world a better place. You can read his blog at . He writes about rejection, breaking social barriers, and altruism as a means of overcoming his struggle with social anxiety while making the world less boring.

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  • Roberts Eric503

    I’m so glad I read this. it helps put things in perspective, great post!!

  • That’s such a wonderful thought. I specifically love the three second rule. And well, seizing opportunities is not the easiest thing in the world to do anyway. In fact, understanding an opportunity as an opportunity is tough. But hey, once you learn it, you burlesque!

  • This is a great post on the power of assertiveness, as well as the tenacity to keep trying.

    I love the idea of being denied once a day, too.

  • Jennifer

    I enjoyed this post, particularily the 3 second rule. I hadn’t thought of that before. Just before I got the email of this post, I was stressing out about how I’m going to find a job after I complete my degree (which will be soon) becasue I don’t feel qualified for anything. Anxiety was totally killing me… I would suppose I’ll get that job because I resume-ed,interviewed, etc. with many, many companies.

  • Rytis

    Thanks! I really enjoyed these suggestions.

  • Heather

    Love, love, love it! Perfect timing, too, as I’m struggling with this issue right now. Thanks Matt!

  • As I try to overcome being a natural hermit in order to become successful with my new business, these are really some excellent practical tips. Thanks so much!

  • Sunshineheart

    Inspiring to read- a dose of exactly what I needed. Thank you.

  • That’s actually a nice point to bring out. I think when you simply look around and try to find opportunities they will come to you! It could be potentially tough but an opportunity can arise. That person on their laptop next to you at Starbucks is an opportunity. That person waiting at the bus stop next to you. That person walking by. There is no ideal situation but every person is an opportunity.

    Thanks again for a nice comment.

  • Thanks for reading it. It feels good to make a difference.

  • Yes! I know what you mean. I love how this can apply to personal businesses as well. It can apply to anything where we have to stand up and make sure we take action.

    Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Yes! I know what you mean. I love how this can apply to personal businesses as well. It can apply to anything where we have to stand up and make sure we take action.

    Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Thanks for reading! I wish you the best in overcoming the issue!

  • Thanks for reading! I wish you the best in overcoming the issue!

  • Anonymous

    Great post! Love the 3 second rule.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! Love the 3 second rule.

  • Thanks. Assertiveness/Tenacity are two traits that everyone should have or learn to have! It really opens up your personal life experience.

    Definitely. It’s a great exercise to go out there and defeat the anxiety.

  • Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Definitely. I thought about it before and thought how hard it would be to do certain things. Then I realized I had to act and just go do it! Even if I get rejected 99 times, it’s worth it if makes a difference to the 1 person who accepted my request. Eventually the job will come. It may take a lot of hard work and rejection but perseverance can be your guide.

  • Thanks! Have a good one.

  • Thanks for visiting the website everyone. You crashed the server! I’m working on getting it back up. Sorry 😛

  • LDeeds

    Fantastic advice! I constantly overthink situations and end up not taking risks. In my job, real estate sales, it is imperative that I take the risks. I am going to put this to the test right away.

  • Matt. I really enjoyed this post especially (like so many others ) the 3-Second Rule and I will remember it. The more time that goes by, the more my mind seems to fester and make up negative stories. Please check out this blog post “How To’s for Paying the Price” as it nestles up to yours quite nicely.
    Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • That’s good to hear. I hope you are successful with the risks!

  • Matt. Here’s the link to the article I referenced “Paying the Price.”

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  • Harsha

    I think this is my favourite Tiny Buddha article that I’ve read so far. Thank you so much! It really opened my eyes to what I’ve been suppressing and it also helped to congratulate myself on all the risks/chances I actually have taken in my life. Thank you 🙂

  • Thanks for the kind words. You should always pat yourself on the back for the risk you have taken and not the reward. Any acceptance is simply a bonus 🙂

  • Glad you read it and liked it 🙂

  • Hi Susie. Yes, the 3-second rule definitely helps because it’s just enough time to know you want to talk to someone yet it’s also not enough time to over-analyze the situation. Yes! I like that point. I realize if I don’t talk, I start making rationalizations. I will check it out. Thanks for the additional insights.

  • Priscilla

    Thanks for sharing this! I think if more people spoke up and shared what was on their mind (especially little things like compliments to strangers), it’d be a much easier society to live in. the first step is always gathering the courage to try, and I’m glad to have read this article because it’s a good reminder that I should keep making those efforts and pushing myself out of my comfort zone 🙂

  • Hi Priscilla. Thanks for the kind words. I agree! Sure there may be more awkward moments but there would be more extraordinary moments as well. The thought of that defeats the idea of monotony. Everyone has their own way of getting that courage. It took me something like this to hit rock bottom where I had no choice but to change or feel that same regret over and over. Keep making those opportunities to push yourself out of the comfort zone! Take Care 🙂

  • mara

    Lovely article, so much needed right now! :))))
    need to reject additional job responsibility proposed by my boss, and assertiveness is my only choice, otherwise i will end up living in my office :-/

  • Mathewsleeann

    I needed this tonight! I have to be assertive tomorrow to go and talk to the director of a department where I really want to work at my Alma Mater. I needed an extra little push. Thanks!

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  • Great article. Props. I really like the tips you mentioned. This article is a very good guide in helping people to become more assertive in their life and to reach their goals.

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  • Didi Claire

    Not trying is a 100% guarantee that I won’t get what I want. But trying reduces it to a 50/50 chance. Thank you. I am trying to start my own practise in the social work field. I already have the idea I would like to implement, and I am looking for an opportunity to do so…. Thanks for the article.