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Are You A Pushover? Boost Your Power of Assertiveness Today


Are you a pushover?

Do you let people walk all over you?  How does that make you feel? Not very good, eh?

You know that we teach others how to treat us, right?

By not standing up for yourself and letting others have their way, you’re teaching them that your rights are not important.

If this is you, you need to boost your power of assertiveness and to teach people how to treat you with respect.

If you are at the other end of spectrum and are acting aggressively, you are trying to manipulate others to get what you want. But, did you know that aggression actually decreases your chances of getting what you want, while being assertive increases your chances?

Assertiveness is a learned trait and anyone can learn to become more assertive in their daily lives.

Here’s some definitions so we all know the differences:

Passiveness: Suppressing your true desires to get along with others while being inwardly resentful to other people (e.g. being a pushover or a doormat)

Assertiveness:  Speaking up or standing up for yourself and your rights without diminishing someone else’s rights (e.g. You – after boosting your assertiveness). Assertive people don’t tread on the rights or feelings of others and there are no bad feelings in the encounter.

Aggressiveness: Acting or communicating in a uncivil or disrespectful manner while diminishing someone else’s basic rights (e.g. being a bully). Aggressive people use anger, guilt, threats or reproach to manipulate others into getting what they want. People know when they are being manipulated and are often resentful and hostile to the aggressor.

Assertiveness is a positive thing! It does not mean that you are rude or overbearing or riding roughshod over anyone else. Quite the contrary. You are standing up for yourself while taking the other person’s rights and feelings into consideration, too.

Why become assertive? Here are 10 reasons you should learn to be assertive:

1. It increases your self-confidence and your integrity.

2. You start thinking of win-win, rather than win-lose.

3. Your communication skills with others will increase.

4. You feel good about yourself, even in those instances where you don’t get what you want.

5. Your stress level decreases while you learn how to deal with daily irritations.

6. Others know where you stand when they deal with you.

7. You get more of what you want.

8. You have better relationships with the people in your life.

9. You can increase your leadership skills by learning to be assertive and not use aggression to get what you want.

10. When you stand up for yourself, you learn to stand up for the rights of others who can’t stand up for themselves.

How can you boost your power of assertiveness?

First, know that being assertive is not dependent on your size, weight, gender, ethnic origin or religion. Anyone can learn how to boost their assertiveness.

In order to be assertive, you have to know what you want and what’s important to you.

Not every situation warrants being assertive. You need to recognize those situations that are important enough for you to assert your rights and let others know your feelings.

There’s no use being assertive all day long on trivial matters! Pick your battles and stand up for yourself when you feel that one of your priorities in life requires it.

If your coffee order got mixed up with another’s, is that something you need to be assertive about? It does, if you value your morning coffee :-) But, maybe it isn’t something important to you and you’re happy to try something different.

What if someone cuts in front of you in line? Does that situation warrant you speaking up and calmly telling the person that you were next in line?

What about if you are being passed over for a promotion at work? How can you speak to your boss about your feelings on the situation? Are you going to speak up and have a discussion with your boss about the promotion or will you fume and get your resume updated?

Do you speak up when you go to the cashier to pay for your items and they are too busy talking to their friend on the phone? How long do you wait to be noticed? The assertive person would calmly get the attention of the cashier after a minute or two. Or you can walk out the door so that they lost your business.

Do you allow your spouse to pick the restaurant you’re going to eat at or the movie you’re going to see, every single time? If you have a preference for a particular food or genre, let them know. Don’t be resentful and say “Oh, it doesn’t matter” when it does matter to you!

What can you do today to boost your power of assertiveness?

One example presented itself while I was writing this article. The phone rang and it was yet another telemarketer calling me to ask if I would complete a survey.

If I was being passive, I would allow the caller to continue with their spiel and then answer the survey questions, which would have taken 10-15 minutes of my time.

If I was being aggressive, I would have slammed down the phone after yelling at the caller about not calling me again during dinner.

Instead, I took into consideration the rights of the caller (after all, it’s their job to call people) and calmly told them that I was not interested in the survey and to take me off of their list. I then wished them a good night and we both hung up the phone. This way they know that I am not interested in answering surveys in the future and won’t call me.

I guess I could have just ignored the call when I recognized the 1-1800 number on the Caller ID, but then they would have just kept calling me at various times. Confronting problems is so much easier than hoping that they will go away.

I have another examples of being assertive.

Earlier in my career, I was very sensitive being a female programmer working in the male-dominated IT industry. I was at a brainstorming session with a group of male programmers when my boss (who’s meeting it was) asked me to take the minutes.

If you don’t know what meeting minutes are, basically you are writing down what people say in the meeting and then typing them up afterwards to send them out to the meeting invites. To me, that is an administrative task (e.g. secretarial work). 

Instead of quietly fuming being asked to do secretarial work (I didn’t go to university and college to take other people’s notes), I calmly told him that I would rather participate in the session and would be distracted by having to take the notes for the meeting. I also added that, as the only female in the room, I felt that I needed to speak up and represent the female point of view on the application that we were building.

Do you know what happened? Besides never being asked to take minutes again, my manager calmly went to the next person beside me and asked them to take the minutes! It was no big deal to him. But, it was a big deal to me.

I was so proud of myself for saying no. I just knew that if I had given in I would have been furious with myself, resentful to my boss, and would never have forgiven myself.

Maybe this is the reason that no guy has ever asked me to get them the coffee before a meeting during my entire IT career, as happened to a couple of my female friends. So much for equality in the corporate world, eh?

You have to stand up for yourself and teach people how to treat you with respect. Being assertive and standing up for your rights, without diminishing any one else’s rights, is one of the best ways you can teach people how to treat you.

How about you? Do you act passive and let people walk all over you? Are you aggressive and stomp over the rights of others while you go after what you want? Or have you learned how to be assertive? Let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Related Posts:

1. Top 5 Reasons To Leave Your Job
2. My Top 5 Secret Success Factors
3. Invest In Your Most Important Asset – Yourself
4. 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Life
5. Are You Being Your True Authentic Self?

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21 comments… add one

  • It has been my experience that people who allow others to control or manipulate them invite more of the same. As you point out, there is no need to be overly aggressive or belligerent. Simply stand your ground when you know you are right.

    One trait that annoys me no end is passive aggressive behavior. Non-confrontational people usually cause grief for both parties. Better to hash something out than let it stew.

    Wonderful, insightful post as usual.

    • Hi Hal,

      Well from a former queen of passive-aggressiveness, I can appreciate how much that trait annoys you. It took me a long time to learn to gather the courage to confront situations rather than act in a passive-aggressive way. It never solved the problem and only prolonged the conflicts. I’ve learned not to be that way, although confrontation doesn’t come easy. As with everything, the more you practice, the better you get.

      Thanks for sharing,

  • Karen,

    I think we all need to be assertive, esp. when the need arises. Otherwise, you’re left with regret after the situation has passed. “I should’ve told him to shove it up his..!” is what you’re left with.

    I need to practice this more often ;)
    .-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Are You Embarrassed Of Saying “Passive Income” Out Loud? =-.

    • Hi Moon,

      Yes, when the moment passes, it passes and you lose the opportunity. In some instances, this could be a good thing as being too emotional to every situation isn’t good either. Picking your battles is the key.


  • Hi, Karen. Really enjoy reading “Meaningful.” In the situation where you were asked to take the minutes, my thought would have been to go ahead and take the minutes, since your boss asked you to. But after the meeting I would have, one-on-one, expressed my objections. That way I would have been assertive but wouldn’t embarrass my boss in front of others by refusing an order. My guess is that you had a great relationship with your boss, so your approach was good. I’m glad it worked for you!

    • Welcome Sue,

      Yes, I could have taken the minutes, but I know myself. I know that I would have been madder than hell to be treated like a secretary (as I said I was very sensitive being a female programmer with all men) and for that instance, I was ready to take the consequences of speaking up for myself. I don’t think he was embarassed by me saying no in the meeting. We are allowed to say no to our bosses when the situation warrants it. For me, this situation warranted it.

      Someone else would probably react in a different way, depending on their life experiences and situation.


  • I agree with Hal. Great post Karen :)

    One of my favourite lines was, “pick your battles” because you’r right, if we assert our rights over every tiny little thing, life will be a constant war zone and not much fun for us or anyone else.

    I’m not the best at being assertive as I’m generally very bad at saying no. I like to make people happy and do all I can to help them. That said, as pressures on my time have increased, I have got better at speaking up ;)

    Thank you for a timely reminder,
    .-= Eleanor Edwards´s last blog ..1 Minute Motivator: Do you have an objection? =-.

    • Thanks, Eleanor, I’m glad that you have gotten better about protecting your valuable time and energy by speaking up and saying No to certain situations and people.

      Yes, we do have to pick our battles, otherwise we will be walking around in a constant state of being angry and ready to fight everything and everyone. Not very healthy :-)


  • Great post Karen. I knew exactly which category I fit into before I was a paragraph in. I was once a pushover and I have evolved into an assertive person. There are times where I still shy away from confrontation but they are few and far between.

    I think being assertive is very useful in business whether you are in sales or if you are a business owner trying to arrange a deal. If you know the value of your time as well as your product/service, you can assertively ask for a buying decision without jeopardizing the relationship. Often, being assertive gets the deal done more quickly. If not, it gets you to a “no” more quickly and you can move on to your next prospect. There is nothing more damaging to a sales or entrepreneurial career than being a pushover.

    Assertiveness is definitely the way to go!
    .-= Justin Popovic´s last blog ..Work Expands to Fit the Time Allotted =-.

    • Hi Justin,

      “I have evolved into an assertive person” –> that’s a great way of stating it, Justin!

      We are all in a state of evolution when we incorporate knowledge that we have learned. Assertiveness is a learned behaviour that anyone can be taught. It just take practice, and, as you state knowing the value of your time as well as your product/service.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with being a pushover and being assertive. Much appreciated.


  • hi karen,
    how are you?
    i loved this post and the balance created highlighting the use of a bit of common sense in being assertive using a few examples in the post
    I believe being assertive at times covers our vulnerability and prevents one from being taken for granted. It also promotes a spring in our steps because we genuinely feel happy standing up for our rights or who we are.
    It also creates a sense of boldness(would that be adrenalin rush?)
    do have a lovely day
    .-= ayo´s last blog ..50 Ways To Have A Good Time =-.

    • Hi Ayo,

      I am well, thank you. I hope you are having a good day today.

      Being taken for granted is one of the consequences of not knowing how valuable you you. Once someone learns to appreciate who they are and what they offer the world, they are in a better position to stand up for themselves and be assertive when the situation demands it. That’s a great point you bring up, Ayo.

      I agree that the more you stand up for yourself and what you believe in, the more bold you become. It builds up your self-confidence and even though you may not always get what you want, at least you tried. You don’t have to live with self-recrimination and regret when you are being assertive.


  • Karen,

    Lots of thoughts in my head now! Assertiveness; there are many courses you can attend to teach you how to be more assertive. Are they any good; I don’t know really perhaps some are and some aren’t. The problem still remains; how to be more assertive, which you’ve linked into teaching people to respect us.

    I think we have to learn how to be more assertive with ourselves and respect ourselves more, then we can be more assertive and respectful with them. This show how you would like to be treated.

    Great post thanks for sharing your thoughts.


    .-= Paul´s last blog ..The cycle of the four seasons =-.

    • Hi Paul,

      You’ve hit on a very important point and one that needs stressing. When you respect yourself, you’re able to stand up for yourself and not let anyone trample over your rights. Learning to value yourself and become assertive in those situations that call for it will build your confidence and strengthen your integrity. It’s a cycle that re-inforces itself. The more self-respect you have, the more you assert yourself and stand up for your rights, and the more confident you feel.

      Thanks for bringing up that important point.


  • Hey Karen,

    I think it’s important to be assertive. As you have mentioned being passive is not an option. And aggression isn’t one either.
    Of course it’s hard to sometimes speak up for yourself but that’s sometimes what you need to do.
    “Think of win-win”. I totally agree. I think there are too many people that think that one person has to win and the other one has to lose. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
    .-= Julius Kuhn-Regnier´s last blog ..10 Secrets to the Best Comments Ever =-.

    • Hi Julius,

      We all have to do things that sometimes we don’t want to do or feel uncomfortable doing, which is why I advocate picking your battles. Knowing what’s important to you and what’s not important can help you be assertive and stand up for what you believe in.


  • I realize that I’ve been passive for the past few months now, but it’s only to avoid arguements. I really don’t like getting into arguements. I appreciate that you’ve given good tips on being assertive and expressing your thoughts, without arguing with someone and in turn experiencing stress.
    .-= Julius´s last blog ..A Day of A Deaf Blind Person =-.

    • Hi Julius,

      I can understand the feeling of wanting to avoid arguments, but you’re really only delaying them. The issues don’t go away. Have you read my recent article on conflicts and ways to resolve them? Check out: http://www.ameaningfulexistence.com/2010/03/22/know-these-five-causes-of-conflict/

      I think with the combination of the knowing the causes of conflicts, how to resolve them, and the ways that you can be assertive, you can learn to stand up for yourself in a positive way so that no one feels bad.

  • Hi Karen, an excellent post and great examples of you sticking up for yourself. We often get taken for granted (men and women) and I think that everyone can benefit from assertiveness training. Although there is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive, so it needs a person to be calm when pushing back. (which can be a stressful the first few times you do it).
    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..How to make a difference to your finances in 2010 =-.

    • Hi Matthew,

      I agree that it takes patience to learn how to be assertive and not be aggressive. But, it’s a very worthwhile skill to have during life so that you are not taken for granted (nor do you take others for granted).

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the article.

      Thanks for sharing,

  • You offer some very practical advice.

    In addition to what you wrote, I would like to posit another idea: let people earn your kindness. Unfortunately more often than not, when you give people the benefit of the doubt, they will use it to their advantage.


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