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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.

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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?

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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:

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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:

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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 unsplash.com

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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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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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