Published on January 26, 2021

How To Be An Assertive Person Without Being Too Pushy

How To Be An Assertive Person Without Being Too Pushy

To be an assertive person requires self-awareness, confidence and respect for others.

Assertive people actively listen and share their point of view in a way that does minimize or shame the other person. Assertive people know they don’t have all the answers and are open to hearing different perspectives to learn where other people are coming from.

In this article, we will look at a few scenarios with both assertive and pushy language. Soon you will see a pattern that the pushy responses are often emotional, selfish and dismissive while assertive responses are calm, open to hearing different points of view and clear in their communication.

Assertive vs. Passive vs. Aggressive

Let’s start by reviewing the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive styles of communication.

Passive People

Passive people tend to let others decide things for them. They go with the flow and use language like “I don’t care, whatever you think, you decide.”

Other people may read passivity as not caring, lacking confidence and may sometimes leave you out of decision making because you don’t seem to have a point of view to share.

Passive people can get passed over for promotions, be left out of planning activities due to their lack of enthusiasm or ambition for the work.


Aggressive People

Aggressive people come across like bullies, stating what they think as if it is the only point of view and dismissing other viewpoints offered with language like “that won’t work”, “that’s stupid”, “you don’t know what you are talking about” or “what a dumb idea”.

Language like this disregards the opinions of those around them, can steamroll the conversation or, worse yet, prevent others from sharing their opinion for fear of being ridiculed.

Assertive People

Assertive people are confident, state their viewpoints calmly, clearly and accept other points of view even if they are different from their own.

Assertive people show respect for themselves and others in the way they communicate. They use language like “I think we might need an extension on this project, what do you think?”, “Can we talk about what happened in the meeting? I need some help understanding what went wrong”, or “I’m happy to take on this additional project, but know that I have a few deadlines ahead of it that I have to get to first. Can we check in next Monday to talk about it in more detail?”

The Difference

Did you notice one important difference in the language used by assertive people? They ask questions.

Assertive people invite others into the moment because they know their opinion and point of view have merit. The passive examples and aggressive examples above show statements. Period. They either give permission (passive language) or draw the line and dismiss (aggressive language).

How Different People React: Case Study

Let’s investigate a few scenarios and look at types of responses from the three styles. Perhaps you will find one that sounds like you?


Scenario 1: The overbearing boss is pressing you for the report that isn’t due for two more weeks.

Passive Response:“I’m sorry, I’ll get it to you right away.”

In other words, even though you know you still have two more weeks, you don’t say anything because you don’t want to upset the boss or appear contradictory.

Aggressive Response:

“Why didn’t you tell me you needed it sooner? The deadline is two weeks away! I can’t work any faster than I already am.” Then you huff, walk loudly out of the office and murmur to yourself under your breath rolling your eyes to your co-workers and shaking your head.

Assertive Response:

“Did something come up that you need it sooner? I know the original deadline was two weeks from now. (Pause for response. They may be getting pressure from above and just need to vent.) I’ll do my best to get it to you as soon as I can, but I might need to move some other projects around to get this done. When would you like to have it?” Stating the facts calmly while maintaining respect for the other person, even if they are showing high emotion or distress, shows confidence and concern for the other person.

Scenario 2: Your ten-year old child complains when you ask them to turn off the video games and do their homework. They ask for 10 more minutes, which they did 10 minutes ago and you agreed to the first request.

Passive Response:


You don’t do anything because you don’t want to fight. You think to yourself “they never listen to me anyway and if his homework isn’t done his teacher will make him do it.”

Aggressive Response:

“Get off that thing now!” “You never listen!” “Get your homework done now or I’m taking away the game for good!” You are frustrated, emotional and yell to get them to act.

Assertive Response:

You acknowledge that you already agreed to the first request, gave them the additional 10 minutes and now that time is up. “Sorry. I already gave you ten extra minutes so now it’s time to turn it off. Do you want to do homework at the table or in your room?” This question communicates that homework is happening now while giving the child a choice as to where they will do it.

In all of the assertive responses above, the speaker remains composed and sticks to the facts when communicating without laying blame or ridiculing the other person.

3 Fail-Safe Steps to Becoming an Assertive Person

You may be thinking this is easier said than done and yes, it is, but it is possible! Here are 3 fail-safe steps to becoming an assertive person:


1. Start by Checking in With Yourself

What is your current style of communication? How is that working for you? Think about and decide how you want to be perceived by others in communication.

If you aren’t sure of your communication style, take this free test to find out where you are on the assertiveness scale.

2. Be Curious and Open to Other Points of View

Shift your focus to learning, not about being right or wrong. Assertive people aren’t focused on winning, but rather being understood and problem-solving with others. They are open to being changed by what they hear and listen and consider other ideas with respect.

3. Use “I” Statements When Speaking and Follow up With a Question.

“I” statements are great because they are specific to you and your thoughts, feelings and perspectives. Practice asserting yourself by starting with “I feel”, “I noticed”, or “I wonder”, and then follow up with a question like “what do you think?” to invite the other person in and share their thoughts.

Final Thought

Be patient. Patient with yourself and others as you strive to improve your communication skills.

Remember that we all learn how to communicate as children based on the environments we grow up in and the examples that we see. The passive people, the aggressive people and the assertive people all are modeling the style they witnessed in their upbringing.

We all have room to improve so let’s strive for open, honest and respectful conversation to create a stronger connection with each other.

More on Assertiveness

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via

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Carol Zee

Teaching effective communication skills for 20+ years

How To Be An Assertive Person Without Being Too Pushy 7 Actionable Ways to Develop Good Listening Skills

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]


The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.


The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]


Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.


The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.


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