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Firmness is behaviour that allows you to defend your rights and boundaries without infringing on the rights of others. A firm attitude should be based on the idea that everyone’s rights and needs are equally valuable.

Firm behaviour helps you to interact with others. Recognising and defending your personal boundaries and valuing yourself are all parts of good self-esteem.

Firmness means

  • directness in communicating openly about personal issues
  • taking responsibility for your life
  • the courage to stand by your words
  • the courage to stand up for yourself


Sometimes it can feel insurmountably difficult to do things like expressing your feelings, saying “NO”, or asking for a favour. Many people have learned from childhood to please others too much and to ignore their own needs. Firm behaviour is based on listening to your needs. A person behaving firmly

  • does not agree to things and activities just because another person wants to.
  • does not base their decisions on how another person reacts to them.

Firm behaviour can cause resistance and irritation in other people. When our environment is used to us being flexible and making sacrifices, changing our behaviour upsets the status quo. Others may also feel that a firm refusal hurts their feelings.


The purpose of firmness is not to offend or make others feel bad. On the contrary, firm communication is direct, clear and, at the same time, respectful. Firmness does not mean criticising others – it means valuing ourselves. While behaving firmly, we can remain friendly. Firmness does not mean criticising others – it means valuing ourselves.

Every person has the right to limit what they get involved in and what they agree to in relationships and interactions. Too much flexibility and adaptability can lead to unequal relationships and exploitation.

In the long run, too much flexibility is exhausting. When you firmly value your own needs, it will be easier for others to respect you, too.

However, being firm does not mean being selfish and disregarding others. A firm person helps another person in need.

A lack of firmness is often also linked to

Firmness can and should be practised – especially when it feels foreign, difficult, or awkward. To be firm, you must first get to know yourself: who and what you are, what you want and need, what you won’t do.


The following list will help you identify what rights we all have.

I have the right to

  • ask someone else to do something, as long as I understand that they have the right to refuse.
  • refuse requests or requirements that I cannot meet.
  • refuse even if the person asking would like me to agree, is in a position of authority over me, or is emotionally unstable.
  • say no to anything I don’t feel ready for, that feels dangerous, or that offends my values.
  • use my personal judgement to decide whether someone else’s request is reasonable.
  • change my mind, make mistakes, fail, and be imperfect.
  • express all my feelings – both positive and negative.
  • be myself, think for myself, and make decisions based on my feelings.
  • get angry with people I love and take responsibility for the expressions of my anger.
  • be afraid and say that I am afraid.
  • say “I don’t know”, “I don’t understand”, or “I don’t care” if I feel that something doesn’t concern me.
  • defend and explain my behaviour and decide when I am not going to explain my behaviour.
  • need space and time, to change and grow.
  • be playful and light-hearted.
  • be happy and healthy, feel well without feeling guilty.
  • not to feel guilty about things that are not my fault.
  • choose my friends and be in an environment where I am treated well.
  • others respecting my needs and wishes.
  • assess my behaviour, thoughts, and feelings and take full responsibility for them and their consequences.
  • decide for myself to what extent I need to find solutions to other people’s problems.
  • be inconsistent in my decisions.
  • defend myself even when it offends someone else as long as my motive is defence and not attack.
  • tell someone else about my needs – even if they think my needs are unjustified or inconsistent, don’t want to hear about my needs, get offended or agitated when listening to me, or think I shouldn’t have such needs.