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.


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Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via

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Carol Zee

Teaching effective communication skills for 20+ years

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.


But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.


Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”


 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via


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