Quit Being a Pushover: How to Be Assertive

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 12, 2013 · 121 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development


Your boss consistently asks you at the last minute to come into work on the weekend. You say “yes” every time even though you have family plans. You stew with resentment as you pore over TPS reports on a Saturday.

You order an expensive steak at a restaurant, but when the waiter brings it to you it’s way over-cooked. When he asks, “How is everything?” you respond, “Fine,” while you glumly saw your charred hunk of meat. 

You want to take a jiu-jitsu class, but you don’t think your wife will be too happy with you spending an hour or two every week away from your family, so don’t you even mention the idea to her.

Your neighbor lets his dogs bark all night, and it’s keeping you from sleep. Instead of talking to him about it, you bad-mouth him to your friends on Facebook.

If any of these situations hits close to home, then you’re likely one of the legions of men who suffer from “Nice Guy Syndrome” – a set of personality, attitude, and behavioral traits described by Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Nice Guys take a passive approach to life and relationships. Instead of standing up for themselves, they let others walk all over them. They’re pushovers and perennial People Pleasers. Nice Guys have a hard time saying no to requests — even unreasonable ones. They’re considerate to a fault. When they want or need something, they’re afraid to ask for it because they don’t want to inconvenience others. Nice Guys also avoid conflict like the plague. They’d rather get along than get ahead.

At first blush, Nice Guys seem like saints. They appear generous, flexible, and extremely polite. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll often find a helpless, anxious, and resentful core. Nice Guys are often filled with anxiety because their self-worth depends on the approval of others and getting everyone to like them. They waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to say no to people and even then, often end up still saying yes, because they can’t go through with it. They don’t feel they can go after their true desires, because they’re locked into doing what others say they should do. Because “go with the flow” is their default approach to life, Nice Guys have little control over their lives and consequently feel helpless, shiftless, and stuck. They’re also typically resentful and vindictive because their unspoken needs aren’t being met and they feel like others are always taking advantage of them – even though they’re the ones who allow it to happen.

In worst-case scenarios, the Nice Guy’s pent-up resentment from being pushed around will result in unexpected outbursts of anger and violence. He’s a volcano waiting to erupt.

So what’s a Nice Guy to do? How can he regain some control over his life and quit being such a pushover?

Some Nice Guys think the solution is to swing to the other extreme and go from being passive to aggressive. Instead of meekly submitting, they feel like they have to dominate in every situation. They seek to get their way in everything, no matter what.

Aggressiveness, while definitely appropriate in some instances, particularly those involving out-and-out competition, isn’t a very productive communication or behavior style in most cases. In fact, using a persistent, aggressive communication style can often backfire by creating resentment and passive-aggressive behavior in the very people you’re trying to control.

Instead of passivity and aggressiveness, the best approach lies somewhere between the two. The sweet spot for communication and behavior is called assertiveness.

Assertiveness: The Golden Mean Between Passivity and Aggression

You might associate the term “assertiveness” with training courses that women take to learn to be more confident in traditionally masculine workplaces.

But in the past few decades, as men have been taught to smooth over their rough edges — to be less pushy, more sensitive, and more collaborative — a lot of guys have gotten confused as to where to draw the line between aggression and passivity. Anxious to not come off as overbearing, and even sexist, they tend to err on the side of the latter. They’ve lost the ability to navigate between those two rocky shoals, and as a result, many men need to learn, or re-learn, how to be assertive.

So what does it mean to be assertive?

In a nutshell, assertiveness is an interpersonal skill in which you demonstrate healthy confidence and are able to stand up for yourself and your rights, while respecting the rights of others.

When you’re assertive, you are direct and honest with people. You don’t beat around the bush or expect people to read your mind about what you want. If something is bothering you, you speak up; if you want or need something, you ask. You do all this while maintaining a calm and civil demeanor.

Assertiveness also requires an understanding that while you can make a request or state an opinion, others are well within their right to say no or disagree. You don’t get upset or angry when that happens. You stay in control and work to come to some sort of compromise. When you’re assertive, you understand that you might not get what you want. You’ll learn, however, that it not only doesn’t hurt to ask, but actually helps to ask as well:

The Benefits of Assertiveness

Your relationships will improve. Researchers who study marriage and relationships have found that assertiveness is one of the key attributes that both partners need in order for a relationship to be strong and healthy. If one person feels they aren’t getting their needs met, resentment for their partner ensues (even if it’s the person’s fault for not letting their needs to be known).

You’ll feel less stressed. Studies have shown that individuals who undergo assertiveness training experience less stress than individuals who don’t. When you’re assertive, you say no to requests that would otherwise spread you too thin. You also lose the anxiety and worry that comes with being overly pre-occupied with what others will think of your choices/preferences/requests/opinions. You feel in control of your life.

You’ll gain confidence. When you’re assertive, you have an internal locus of control. Your attitude and behavior are governed by your own actions or decisions, not the actions and decisions of others. Knowing that you can make changes to improve your own situation is a big-time confidence booster.

You’ll become less resentful. As you become more assertive, your relationships will become more enjoyable. You’ll no longer have to swallow the bitter pill of resentment when you say yes to a request or decide to do a favor for someone. When you do something, you do it because you actually want to do it, or you’re okay with doing it as part of the natural give and take of relationships.

How to Be More Assertive

Creating the Assertive Mindset

In my experience, becoming more assertive first requires you to change your mindset. You need to get rid of any limiting or incorrect beliefs that are holding you back from being assertive. Here are a few suggestions to get your mindset in the right place.

Set boundaries. The first step in becoming less of a pushover is establishing boundaries. Boundaries are rules and limits that a man creates for himself that guide and direct others as to what’s permissible behavior around him. Passive men typically have no boundaries and allow others to walk all over them.

Men’s counselor and author Wayne Levine calls boundaries N.U.Ts, or Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms. Your N.U.Ts are the things you’re committed to: your family, your health, your faith, your hobbies, your psychological well-being, etc. According to Levine, “N.U.T.s are the boundaries that define you as man, those things which, if repeatedly compromised, will gradually—but assuredly—turn you into a pissed-off, resentful man.”

If you don’t know what your N.U.Ts are, take some time to figure it out. Once you do, make a commitment from here on out that you’ll never compromise them.

Take responsibility for your own problems. Nice Guys wait around for someone else to fix their problems. An assertive man understands that his problems are his responsibility.  If you see something that needs changing in your life, take action. If you’re not happy with something in your life, start taking steps — however small — to change things.

Don’t expect people to read your mind. Nice Guys expect others to recognize what they need and want without having to say a word. Until a mass mutation occurs that allows telepathy or our brains become connected to the Borg, mind reading isn’t possible for the foreseeable future. If you want something, say it; if something bothers you, speak up. Never assume that people know your every need or want. It’s not as obvious as you may think.

Understand you’re not in charge of how others feel or behave. Both passive and aggressive men share a similar problem: they both think they’re in charge of how others feel or behave — they just go about it differently.

An aggressive man assumes responsibility of others’ behavior and emotions by exerting his will through physical, mental, and emotional force.

A passive man assumes responsibility of others’ behavior by constantly submitting his will to the will of others. Passive men feel it’s their job to make sure everyone is happy, even if that means they themselves are miserable.

An assertive man recognizes that it’s not his job to control or worry about others’ behavior and that he’s only responsible for how he behaves and feels. You won’t believe how much less stress and anxiety you’ll feel once you understand this. You’ll no longer spend wasted hours wringing your hands worrying about whether someone will be happy with your choice or opinion.

This isn’t to say that you should be an inconsiderate jerk and shouldn’t take into account the feelings/situations of others. It just means you don’t need to go overboard and be so overly considerate that you don’t make any requests or stand up for your values lest you upset or offend someone. Let them decide whether to be upset or offended. That’s their responsibility, not yours.

You are responsible for the consequences of your assertive words/actions. Asserting yourself will likely ruffle feathers, and there might be unpleasant consequences. But part of being assertive is taking responsibility for those consequences, come what may. Dealing with those consequences is far better than dealing with those of living an anxious, thwarted life.

Assertiveness takes time. Don’t think you’ll magically become assertive simply by reading this article. Assertiveness takes time and practice. You’ll have good days and bad days. Just be persistent with your efforts; it will pay off.

Assertiveness in Action

Once you have the mindset, here’s how to actually start being assertive.

Start small. If the thought of standing up for yourself makes you downright nauseous, start with low-risk situations. For example, if you order a burger, and the waiter brings you a grilled cheese, let him know the mistake and send it back. If you’re out running errands on the weekend with your wife and are trying to decide on a place to eat, don’t just automatically defer, but chime in as to where you’d like to go.

Once you feel comfortable in these low-risk situations, start upping the ante little by little.

Say no. In your quest to become more assertive, “no” is your best friend. Start saying no more often. Does a request conflict with a personal boundary? Say no. Schedule already full? Diga, “No, gracias.” You don’t have to be a jerk when you do it. It’s possible to be firm and resolute with your no while being considerate. At first, saying no may make you very anxious, but eventually it will come to feel good, and actually quite freeing.

Will some people be disappointed when you turn them down? Probably. But remember that as long as you express your needs in a considerate way, you’re not responsible for their reaction. No need to feel guilty for treating yourself like their equal.

Be simple and direct. When you’re asserting yourself, less is more. Keep your requests and preferences simple and direct. No need for elaborate explanations (see below) or meandering wind-ups. Just politely say your piece.

Use “I” statements. When making a request or expressing disapproval use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “You‘re so inconsiderate. You have no idea how hard my day at the office was. Why would you ask me to do all these chores?” say, “I’m exhausted today. I understand you want these things done, but I’m not going to be able to get to them until tomorrow.” Other examples of “I” statements:

  • “You’re so needy and controlling.” “I feel frustrated when you make me feel guilty for hanging out with my friends.”
  • “You always humiliate me when we visit your parents.” “I feel embarrassed when you insult me in front of your folks.”
  • “Your demands are unreasonable!” “I’d prefer that you give me at least three days’ notice before asking me to come in on the weekend.”

When crafting your “I” statements, be careful not to embed accusations or try to interpret the person’s behavior. That will just make them defensive and cause them to shut down. Examples:

  • “I feel like you’re purposely being a jagweed just to get on my nerves.”
  • “I think you’re trying to pick a fight.”

Don’t apologize or feel guilty for expressing a need/want/right. Unless you’re asking for something that’s patently unreasonable, there’s no reason to feel guilty or ashamed for expressing a need or want. So quit apologizing when you make a request. Just politely ask for it and wait to see how the other person responds.

Nice Guys will feel guilty even when expressing dissatisfaction with something they’re paying for! If a contractor hasn’t done the work he agreed to do, it’s your right to ask that it be fixed. It has nothing to do with being polite or not hurting his feelings – it’s just business and that’s how it works.

Use confident body language and tone. Look confident when making a request or stating a preference. Stand up straight, lean in a bit, smile or keep a neutral facial expression, and look the person in the eye. Also be sure to speak clearly and loudly enough to make your point. Passive folks will tend to whisper and mumble when making their opinions or needs known; that will only serve to frustrate the other person.

You don’t have to justify/explain your opinion/choices. When you make a decision or state an opinion that others don’t agree with, one way in which they’ll try to exert control over you is to demand that you offer a justification for your choice/opinion/behavior. If you can’t come up with a good enough reason (in the other person’s eyes) you’re supposed to go along with what they want.

Nice Guys — with their need to please — feel obligated to give an explanation or justification for every. single. choice they make, even if the other person isn’t asking for it. They want to make sure that everyone is okay with their choices — essentially asking for permission to live their life the way they want. Don’t operate like that.

Rehearse. Play out the scenario in which you plan to assert yourself. Sure, it’s goofy, but practice what and how you’ll say in front of a mirror. It helps.

Be persistent. You’ll sometimes face situations when people will shoot you down the first time you make a request. Don’t just throw up your hands and say, “Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it. At least I tried.” Sometimes to be treated fairly, you’ve got to be persistent.  Remain cool, calm, and collected during this process. For example, if you call customer service and they won’t help you with your problem, ask if you can talk to their manager. Or if you get bumped off a flight, keep asking about other options, like getting transferred to another airline, so you can make it to your destination on time.

Be wary of the advice you find in some books on assertiveness that suggest you keep asking the same thing over and over and over again until the person relents and gives you what you want. That’s not being persistent, that’s being a pest.

Stay cool. If someone disagrees or expresses disapproval of your choice/opinion/request, don’t get angry or defensive. Either give a constructive response or decide not to engage with the person any further.

Pick your battles. A common mistake many people make who are on the path to being more assertive is to try to be assertive all the time. Assertiveness is situational and contextual. There may be cases when being assertive won’t get you anywhere and taking a more aggressive or passive stance is the better option.

How do you know when you should or shouldn’t assert yourself? You’ll need to figure that out through practice and exercising some practical wisdom.

Dr. Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons, authors of Your Perfect Right, provide a few questions to consider before choosing to be assertive:

  • How much does it matter to you?
  • Are you looking for a specific outcome or just to express yourself?
  • Are you looking for a positive outcome? Might asserting yourself make things worse?
  • Will you kick yourself if you don’t take action?
  • What are the probable consequences and realistic risks from your possible assertion?

How to Deal With People Who Are Used to Mr. Doormat

If you’ve been a pushover for most of your life, the people around you will likely resist your efforts to become more assertive. They’re used to you being a doormat and are comfortable with a relationship dynamic that has you in the passive role. Don’t get angry or frustrated if your family, friends, and co-workers question or even try to thwart your new assertive approach to life. That’s a completely normal response. Just remember that while the short-term kerfuffles that come with being assertive may be annoying and awkward, you and those around you will be better off in the long-run.


At times, you certainly do need to suck up your feelings and just do it. Perhaps it’s doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, or even finishing that TPS report. However, learning to voice your opinions, and more importantly, respect the validity of those opinions and wants, will serve to make you a more confident man. The result of an assertive action may be getting exactly what you want, or a compromise, or a rejection, but regardless of the outcome, it will lead to you feeling more in control of your life. Start small, learn how to state your wishes, and make assertiveness a part of who you are.

We can all think of the people around us who we know to be assertive. With a little bit of practice and training, you can be that man that people think of and look to when they need something taken care of.

What keeps you from being assertive? Share with us in the comments the steps you’ll take this week to make it a part of your life.



The Assertiveness Workbook (best book on assertiveness that I read; highly recommended)

Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty (not that great; suggests some questionably manipulative tactics to get your way)

No More Mr. Nice Guy (great book; I know a lot of AoM readers have benefited from it; essentially assertiveness training for dudes)

Hold on To Your N.U.Ts

{ 121 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patrick K. February 12, 2013 at 9:35 pm

This post brings tears to my eyes to read it.
I know too many good men who live like this and you do the world a lot of good to post something like this. Thank you sir!!

Note: If you are a Christian, or religiously disposed along that direction, I would recommend No More Christian Nice Guy by Paul T. Coughlin.

2 Matt February 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Wow. What an article to read after coming home from work, feeling like my job description has become so vague, that my primary responsibilities are lacking quality due to the many “extra” responsibilities that tie up my daily schedule.

My issue comes from being a “jack of all trades”, and master of few. If there arises a problem, or a need in the department… No one has a smudge of experience (or googling skills) to resolve it. The answer? Throw it on Matt’s plate, he can do anything. At first it was rewarding, feeling like “the man”. Now Ive created a monster of resentment and anger towards people, who use the path of least resistance (apparently me).

It sucks, because the primary person to utilize this path is my boss (what’s new, right guys?).

This article was a great encouragement. Especially the part about starting small. I actually plan on speaking to my boss this week on “my core expectations and responsibilities”, detailing that I cannot be held responsible for every aspect I participate in.

Thank you for this article and keep up the good work.


3 William February 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I watched a TEDx video where you can project assertiveness/dominance simply by adopting a “power stance” (hands on hips, back straight, chest out, and legs spread shoulder width apart.) Even if you’re just posturing, the reactions of those with whom you’re communicating will actually convince you that you’re assertive, essentially tricking yourself into being truly assertive.

4 J.J. Vicars February 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Excellent article. This should be required reading for everyone old enough drive.

5 Satish Kandukuri February 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for this wonderful post. This one comes at a right time for me. I was one of the confused souls who failed to draw the line between aggressive and passivity. It happened with me, being a volcano waiting to erupt. Recently started saying ‘No’. I feel liberated instantly.
Once again thanks for those small steps to start off. Much needed for me.

6 John Foster February 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I honestly believe that if parents taught this to their children, we wouldn’t have this epidemic of adolescent bullying the country seems to be plagued with in recent years.

7 Lance February 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I think the thing that keeps me from being more assertive is trying to see everything in context of why its happening, or trying to understand the person I’m dealing with vs. wanting them to understand me and the way I see things (I hope that makes sense to all). I tend to think of others more, in hopes that they do the same, but most people don’t (which I’m starting to learn). I try to live by the golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated” or “kill em with kindness” , so that stops me from reproaching someone for something they said or did. The article does touch on the points that when you think of other people before yourself too often, you end up resenting people (and its so true, because your opinion/voice is never heard). Once you start to really care about your own feelings, your actions, and begin to say what’s on your mind… it’s liberating. Its not easy, because you do step on a few toes here and there, but people wont hate you for it.

This is a great article, and I hope the people who need to take something away from it, do just that, and apply it in the right way.

8 Dale Melchin February 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

To quote the lieutenant who confronted the gestapo major: “I must say, d**n good stuff, sir.”

9 Robert Dean February 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

This is taught in sales. Overcoming objections requires an assertive edge while being polite and truly caring about the needs of the guest or client. While pushing drives one away, communicating clearly your proposal with assertion (and lots of enthusiasm and confidence) will seal a deal in no time. Just watch a politician. Its all handshakes and pats on the back while clearly asserting their agenda.

10 Jarrod CL February 12, 2013 at 11:22 pm

It’s an interesting post, to be sure. The part I always get caught up in is second guessing what I’m pushing for.

What if I’m wrong? I’m going to not only look like a right fool (the lesser of the problems), but I’ll end up derailing whatever was going on, for what is in hindsight, no good reason.

I often end up not saying anything not through wanting to please anyone, but more because I’m racking my brain, trying to look at my suggestion from all angles.

This obviously doesn’t apply to trivial matters such as what to have for dinner that night.

11 Sam February 12, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Non- Negotiable Unalterable Terms. I love it. That is exactly what guys need to keep as their compass when making decisions. Unfortunately we often lack the self awareness or self observation to realize that our boundaries are being overstepped, or worse, not having boundaries at all.


12 Gerhard Botha February 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I’ve read the book and would recommend it to every male young and old. My passive/aggressive mindset got shaped in my younger years through my dads teachings. He indirectly taught me (the way he sees reality) to be very, overly considerate of other peoples feelings etc. But the most important person in his life,himself, was unhappy most of the time. Now that im older I see that society in general are ‘nice guys’, so that makes you becoming assertive more difficult. I say read this article once a week until you become very aware of what your gut is telling you. Great article Brett – good stuff.

13 Peter February 12, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Excellent and timely article. I’ve been trying to become more assertive lately, and the biggest obstacles have been: 1. As highlighted in the article, swinging too far in the opposite direction, becoming an aggressive ape, and 2. Complacency with the comforting familiarity of being passive my whole life. Thanks for the encouraging essay. Here’s to learning manliness!

14 Perry February 13, 2013 at 12:03 am

I touched on this topic in my psychology class recently and basically what I learned is that ‘passive’ people are afraid to be abandoned and rejected while ‘aggressive’ people want to have a high level of control over things.

15 Nick P February 13, 2013 at 12:08 am

This was a very good post! It hit close to home in some parts. This gives us all a good checks and balances system to still try to be nice but also be responsible to the other aspects of our life. Thank you!

16 Church February 13, 2013 at 1:58 am

Excellent post, in a lot of places it was like reading about my own life!

I find that several things hold me back. First is one that is thankfully becoming less of an issue as I age: Lack of experience. Simply not knowing or understanding what my rights, etc. are.

But the second one, is that I genuinely want to do things for people. I want to help others. And that often makes it VERY easy, and almost impossible not, to take advantage of me.

17 Kyle February 13, 2013 at 2:19 am

Great article, so many things hit true to me. It makes sense why I have those aggressive outbursts. I am looking forward to implanting these steps to become more assertive.

18 Jacob February 13, 2013 at 2:27 am

When I’m in a situation that might compromise my “N.U.T.S.” I like to start with”I” phrases as suggested above. Additionally I like to finish using what I think of as a passive assertive question. “How can WE make this right?” The use of the word “WE” makes people feel like they aren’t being accused of anything, but rather that they are a member of a problem solving team. The form of a question allows people to feel that they have a part in the process. This question allows people to think about the outcome YOU would prefer and suggest it as their own. Most people tend to cave in to your wants when asked this question, but be prepared for the few brave souls who will suggest a genuine compromise as the solution.

19 Henry Kwan February 13, 2013 at 4:28 am

Assertiveness isn’t really all that: http://imgur.com/HthrUDU

Take for instance those guys mentioned in that photo above, they’re all type A’s, Alpha male, roosters, lone wolves, yet they are pawns.

It’s a balance of assertiveness and sublety, IMHO.

20 Michael February 13, 2013 at 5:29 am

This article is actually applicable to me in my personal life. My job involves sales where I have no trouble at all, after all I’m not going to see most of these people again so I just do what I gotta do.
In my personal life however it’s problems like these that have gotten me walked on and treated like a mug.
I started making changes to myself a couple of months ago and in that time I’ve cut down on the people who turned me into something of a resentful man and say myself some goals and I’ve been feeling a lot better, however this article has some good ideas in it. Thank you.

21 Dean February 13, 2013 at 7:34 am

Very good post! I am going to use this in my business courses.

22 Vincent February 13, 2013 at 7:38 am

This article hit so close to home that it upset me to the point of tears, but I didn’t want to inconvenience any tissues so I decided to just wipe them on my sleeve.

23 Curtis February 13, 2013 at 8:06 am

“Nice Guys — with their need to please — feel obligated to give an explanation or justification for every. single. choice they make, even if the other person isn’t asking for it. They want to make sure that everyone is okay with their choices — essentially asking for permission to live their life the way they want. Don’t operate like that.”

Unfortunately, I think that I’ve come to live the majority of my life this way. Due to my background in the sciences and occupation as an engineer I feel that I’ve been training myself for years to always have reason with supporting evidence for every decision that I make, even when I only need to justify the decision to myself. I think that this is an inevitable spillover from nearly any occupation, as bosses and customers always seem to need ridiculous amounts of data explaining and supporting a decision. However, in your personal life, I don’t think you need such a detailed explanation at the ready for every decision you make. Knowing why you made a particular decision is valuable information only if during the process you’re not causing yourself great anxiety or paralyzing yourself from making a decision in the first place.

I could elaborating on this as well as other ideas presented within the article and how they struck a nerve with me this morning, but I’ll leave it at what I’ve said above and thank you for the timeliness of this article in my life.

24 cj February 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

When I began to be assertive, probably about 8 years ago,it transformed my life. This article isn’t just a good read. It is a philosophy for interacting optimally with others. Marvy post!

25 Tyler February 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

This article was very helpful for me. I typically have trouble standing up to people I’m in a relationship with, for fear that they won’t be happy if they don’t get everything they want. This past week has been very eye opening in that regard and this article seems almost God sent. I am assertive in almost every other aspect of my life, but this article really spells out how I can include this in my intimate relationships. Thank you for this.

26 Derek February 13, 2013 at 9:00 am

One little exercise i’ve discovered is to choose a side of a walking path and lay claim to it.. assert yourself and do not step aside for people as you see each other approach.

its simple.. as long as you’re not inviting any unwanted confrontation by using additional body language, and you obviously don’t make contact with anyone. i use this exercise often.. sidewalk chicken :)

27 ozzy February 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

Great article on a great website. As mentioned I think its particularly important to moderate the assertiveness. I’ve been the “nice guy” type my whole life, and so sometimes there can be this bi-polar feeling where you feel others are stepping on you, so you go in an aggressive overdrive to balance the scales. Picking the right level of moderateness and the right moments is key.

28 Jonas Ellison February 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

Damn you guys! I was just working on a post about setting boundaries and you beat me to it! Seriously, though, great job. So, so true. I’ve fallen prey to being a pushover and it sucks. I’m starting to grow out of it, but until you realize it, you don’t understand how important assertiveness is to your relationships and to your self-worth.

29 Sam I. February 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

Great advice, almost sociological self defense for potential milk sops!

30 Ryan Grimm February 13, 2013 at 9:57 am

Sometimes when you have been that doormat for so long, no matter how assertive you are NOW, you will be continually kept in that position by the other person’s mindset.
Often all you can do is cut your losses, and realize that unless a PERMANENT change in that other person’s attitude is made, you might as well give it up with that person.

As for myself, it was mostly making sure I was HEARD. I used to have a soft voice (due to a domineering set of parents with NO recognition that they were part of the problem), and it was when I took up re-enacting in historical events that I ‘built’ a new and stronger character for myself.
When I later came back to my parents for a visit, they had themselves rocked back REPEATEDLY with my Assertive Unwillingness to give in to their shit.
They learned a bit, but old habits (on their part) died VERY hard!

Another thing that made me assertive was performance, be it in jobs, relationships, with friends etc.
By being the ‘guy who knew his shit’, I became more of an authority, and subsequently more respected and powerful…leading to more confidence. If YOU are the guy doing the job, YOU become the expert, sometimes the Boss.

Third, I’m no longer a nice guy, haven’t been one for a LONG time. I learned by working my way up in a construction company, where performance is everything. If you don’t do the job, you’re gone. By sticking to my tasks, taking on new roles, and simply outlasting the herd, I became a senior foreman. Firing guys became my job because of my no-crap attitude. I told them straight out what the problem was (them), why it was a problem, and then told them to leave.
If they tried arguing, I I immediately called the police…guys that think they could argue with me take a step back when the first thing I do (instead of elevating the argument) is calling 911. They may have been so used to bullying themselves back into jobs, that now they had to learn a new way to cope.
And do it somewhere else…there were plenty of jobs back then, but not NOW.

I’m POLITE, and many people confuse that with being a walkover.
I lent them know in no uncertain terms that isn’t the case. I tell them in ways that brook no argument, cannot be misunderstood. I have been accused of being verbose, but RARELY am I misunderstood.

I stand my ground.

31 Anthony February 13, 2013 at 10:16 am

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
― Bill Cosby

32 Colin February 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

I’ve lived an assertive lifestyle pretty much since I can remember, and I have pretty much no regrets. No lost opportunities or things I wish I had said or done differently. The only thing is you need to be able to admit you’ve screwed up because you will. Still, I’d rather say “I messed up” than say “I wish I had taken the chance to mess up.”

I see my friends that have their whole lives controlled by people around them and they get majorly stressed, depressed, and are constantly anxious and worried. It really is kinda sad because they’re just throwing their lives out the window.

33 Mike February 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

Awesome post. I try to please everyone and my wife is the aggressive opposite.
I have had times where I have stood up for myself and said how I feel, but to do it I had to do exactly as you suggest; not worry about the anger for the disagreement but state my side and handle what reaction that entails. In the end, it is always better than stewing about it for days until exploding, which is not fair to anyone.

34 Paul February 13, 2013 at 10:58 am

I only discovered this site a few days ago and just want to tell you folks how thoroughly impressed with it I am. Every article is so well written and thorough, but not overbearing. Everything is a good read. This particular article hits the nail on the head with me, and is something I’ve personally been working to improve on my own but this has supplied me with great guidelines and information to keep in mind. THANK YOU!

35 brento February 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

Hold on there is way more to this problem.

1. I can be pretty assertive, however I also overload myself on projects, which means i often deliberately take the passive choice our of strategic laziness, because sometimes you need to control how much adrenaline you produce. The key is restate why you let things slide previously. That is the price of taking a break… There is no free ride in this game we all tie each other into here (and lets be honest underneath, that’s all it is).

2. Like others above trained in science and also being a problem solver, we cant be certain in every situation, and we have to express this to others. They often take this for weakness, and then a blowup later. Why ? Sorry to say, but in my experience, more assertiveness correlates with low intelligence..because if you dont have smarts capacity, you tend to have less…”mmm lets try and push the envelope for options here” ,,type moments.

3. I notice the guy in the working class situations above will refer to me as the boffin, even though I can turn heavy on a dime If I have to. Its an enigma to them. The heavy going Boffin, they think it is crazy to be both smart and capable. I like to do both working class trades and very complex science work. I just get bored of one level of living. I have come to the conclusion that many working class situations are a game of how to exert deliberate willful ignorance. If you cant make a summary in one line you are done. But like I said I like time out periods in ignorant situations, like a season playing recreational Ice hockey or building work. So it it’s a complex subject.. Well often I have to say..”do you want the technical details”… or if I am tired “sorry it’s a long story”..

4. There is also curiosity to be passive i.e. mmm Wondering, so what will this guy do If I am easy going, because sometimes I am looking to find people to build situations where I dont have to produce adrenaline unless its really necessary,,and where it is necessary varies in the different walks of life.

36 Alvin February 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

Thanks for the article. I myself have been a doormat for a long time. then I got to Uni and I Man Up. And it’s true. Being assertive is rewarding. And deliberating.

37 Gypsy February 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm

One thing which helped me a great deal was to remind myself that the “freak out” of thoughts and feelings which arose in the beginning every time I asserted myself – those thoughts and feelings are just the brain’s way of remind you that you’re doing something contrary to “normal”. If you’ve been passive your whole life your brain will want to flood you with “warnings” when you decide to be assertive. The thoughts and feelings DON’T mean anything is actually wrong. They’re just reminders.

38 James February 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I just started to do this as someone told me I needed to. Where to start is to realize that you have inherent value as along with everyone else. Once you realize this you can be assertive without being angry. I’ve often swung between the two extremes of doormat and a-hole due to my lack of self worth and lack of respect for other people’s worth. Ultimately, I believe when you allow yourself to be used as a doormat you are enabling people to abuse you. I acted that way because of my lack of self worth. When you respond angrily to other people’s anger you are enabling their abuse of you (inciting more anger in them) while abusing them. Respect others as you should respect yourself. With that mindset, you should be able with practice to be properly assertive.

39 Mike February 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been an active member of the NMMNG online support group for a while now and have been overcoming a lot of these problems.

For all the guys this rings true to, pick up Dr Glover’s book and join the OSG. Having people you can talk to about this stuff (especially guys who know what you’re going through and don’t judge) is indespensible for working through these problems.

40 Mike February 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I was literally searching for a website to direct me to assertiveness classes or something of that nature just yesterday. To see this article at this particular moment is fantastic. In fact I just rented “The Half-Lived Life” by John Lee to start trying to change my outlook and my habits… After a lot of soul searching, I’ve realized that the part of me that is unhappy is the part of me that keeps screaming “You’re a doormat!” I will look into “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and I will definitely have to start implementing some of these habits.
As a young guy in today’s society, it’s hard to talk about something like this… people don’t understand. They can either relate to you but offer no help, or they completely don’t understand and brush you off with the “toughen up buttercup” attitude… if it were that easy I would have done it by now…
Thanks for all your great posts Brett and Kate.

41 Keith February 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Henry Kwan:
” Assertiveness isn’t really all that: http://imgur.com/HthrUDU

@ Henry Kwan,

Where is that from?

42 Paul February 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I can’t express enough how the website has changed my life. From shaving like my grandpa, to wearing better clothes, combing my hair, and articles helping me gain confidence.

This one in particular. I am a nice guy and have been pushed around a lot of times in my life. This article has helped me face some facts. I hope to implement many of the suggestions!

43 Lee February 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thanks for an amazing, concise article.
I have studied the subject of passive/aggressive behavior and to have it condensed into a readers digest version is a pleasure to read.
Great job with the website.

44 Zach February 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I like the use of “I” statements. NOLS actually teaches that as a constructive way to deal with issues within your camping group. Because they probably don’t realize they are doing something annoying or not beneficial to the group, it is more helpful to point out how you feel about it more than how wrong they are.

45 Johnny C February 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm

One thing I’ve noticed is people confuse assertiveness with rudeness even when being polite. I had a roommate who put his drinks on top of my books and his feet on the table–oftentimes on my homework. When I let him know that “I don’t use books as coasters or homework as foot rests,” his response was “Well if it’s important to you, don’t leave it there, it’s just paper to me.”

Some people just don’t have the manners or consideration for others even when it’s pointed out to them, and it’s good to strike that balance between being assertive and considerate without compromising to the point of being a pushover–so you’ve basically said what I have for years. Thanks Brett and Kate!

46 B. Barrett February 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm


I understand the “reason dilemma”. One view of the customer is the “bad customer” that is constantly changing requirements for a project or scrutinizing every detail. I can’t remember what site it was on but it is about web-development that had a article about dealing with those customers. It really comes down to the 80-20 rule. 20% of the customers will do 80% of the complaining. . . cut that 20%. Also and this is more my rule than one stated to me:
“A man weighs the information available to him at the time and makes his decision. If all information was considered he has made the ‘right’ decision. If the information changes at a later time he has still made the ‘right’ decision.” Meaning you don’t have a crystal ball and can’t perfectly predict the future or an actual disaster that may prevent you from completing some task or assignment. If your credentials from an engineering program and your past performance are not enough to keep your boss(es) or a firm’s clients, from scrutinizing every minutia it is time to seriously consider finding new employment. Although you should be able to answer reasonable questions. . . no when to call out B.S.


Point 1: Do you “overload yourself” because you want to or it’s stuff shoved off on you?
“Strategic laziness,” I say “cop-out”. If your “overloaded” and you do it yourself, how much can you really do well? A “man” sees someone that does a few things great as some one as “useful to others” and someone that half-asses a lot of stuff as someone “completely unreliable.”

Point 2: Read what I said to Curtis. Also some people become “overwhelmed with options” and fail to act. Sometimes we waste way too much effort on coming up with options when it is just not feasible to deal with all of them or sometimes directly dealing with a problem is the easiest, fastest, and even best solution.

Point 3: You’re rationalizing but I’m really not sure what. Rationalizing is as bad as emotionalizing. Humans are emotional creatures YOU need to accept that. You can’t “logic” a woman into being attracted to you. You can’t “logic” a mad-man, criminal, or someone with a mental defect from doing something bad to you.

Point 4: When a man gives excellence he can expect and demand it from others. However, for it to work you always have to give excellence.

What does adrenaline have to do with any of it? While you may throw a temper tantrum, I would be laughing at you.

47 Nater February 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Really appreciate the post. Passiveness has always been a weak spot for me. Looking back at a previous dating relationship, I can see how assertiveness would have changed things so much.

I’d also add to the benefits you listed for assertiveness. Assertiveness also makes better leaders. Seems obvious. But young men like me need to view themselves innately as leaders in some capacity in life. And followers need assertiveness from their leaders. If you’re a nice guy that likes to do nice things for people and serve them, consider assertiveness as a service to others true needs. The best thing you might ever do for someone is to say “no,” if it’s in everyone’s best interest. Someone else being “happy” is not always in everyone’s best interest. So, assertiveness as service.

48 Jules February 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Get ready for an explosion of violence & road-rage as everybody tears around being super assertive & alpha male. Wow – way too much ego in all of this – guess what kiddos, it aint all about you!
An over supply of ‘assertiveness’ is what makes so many of our communities less than nice to live in.
Whatever happened to the art of compromise & being a gentleman?

49 Jarrod CL February 14, 2013 at 1:27 am

@B. Barrett

With regard to your second point, and to my earlier post which are topically similar, I found something that helped me today and applies to your post. Teddy Roosevelt. The “Resolution” poster on this site covers it quite succinctly:


50 Jesse February 14, 2013 at 2:57 am

I’ve been working on myself during my deployment to Afghanistan. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.

51 luis February 14, 2013 at 4:36 am

For the past few months I have had a hard time breaking up with an on again off again romantic relationship because of a lack of assertiveness. I was afraid to hurt her feelings, and also afraid to let go and be left with nothing. This week I simply asserted myself and, lo and behold, she doesn’t hate me for it — at least I don’t mind if she does! I believe we are still on friendly terms. This article helped me sort through it at the end. thanks again AOM. Will definitely look at the recommended books.

52 Brian February 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

Wow. I REALLY needed this today. I’ve been struggling with my friends making me feel guilty for not hanging out with them after work, but sometimes I just want to go home and do NOTHING.

Thanks a lot for the Bret, I need to sit down and figure out how I want to exert my assertiveness now.

53 Aaron February 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

Wow! Thank you for this article. I only wish I came across this 10 years ago. I have shared it with my two brothers. We were raised to be “Nice Guys” by loving parents yet rarely were we taught assertiveness. We were taught to defend ourselves in an outright confrontation yet our daily lives are filled more with “subtle confrontations”. Those are more difficult to navigate for us “nice guys”. This article hit home repeatedly. I have posted on my fridge to read over-and-over for the next month. Again, thank you for your web-site and podcast. Very enriching and appreciated. Strong Work Brett and Kate!

54 Michael H February 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm

@Ryan Grimm:

You just answered a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. I’m not a nice guy anymore, however I do still have a problem with using a louder voice. I am getting into reenacting (have the uniform, need the rifle) and I’ve been wondering how that’ll change me considering I’ll need to be loud and clear, something I’m not used to.

As for book suggestions, I by far got the most out of Wild at Heart. Get that with manual and you’re in for a life changer. Though, it is geared towards Christians.

55 KierO February 15, 2013 at 7:56 am

Yep. Been there.

I am a nice guy, always have been.

Up until a few years ago I was EVERYTHING above. Polite, willing to do anything for anyone…hell I’ll say it: I was submissive.

That was until I got a new boss. Did he mentor me? Did he inspire me to change? Hell no. The guy was an A**hole.

I tried as hard as possible to always please him, but he was so changable that he would even ask you to do something, then once you had done it he would deny all knowledge of the task and shout and scream at you for doing work “behind his back”.

One day I simply lost it with him. I realised that no matter how much I tried to please him, he was never going to change. So I started to stand up to him. I never threatened him, swung for him or screamed at him. But I did make it clear that he spoke to people like crap and that I simply wasnt goign to take it anymore.

Now I am a much more balanced person for it. People realise that I work hard, I will go out of my way to help out, but not to take the piss and to (at the very least) show appreciation.

In my new job I now have a reputation for being able to deal with the most difficult and demanding people, simply because I make it clear to them that I will work my hardest to give them what they want, but that shouting, screaming and beating their chests is not going to get the job done any quicker or better.

56 brento February 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

Im not sure how B.Barrets points were all so relevant, put it would be complicated to explain ! Some of us have natural liking for the excitement of overloading ourselves with complexity, it is like climbing a mountain… How do you think math, then science, physics etc came to be ?

Anyway regarding the contention point on adrenaline, this is something kind of missed on in the original post. Being assertive sure you can just have regular assertive reasoning, all very cool at a regular pace, and all men being reasonable and pressure not too great etc.

Much assertiveness has to be carried out under pressure scenarios, and so adrenaline has to be produced. Not a rage, just good burst and stop techniques.

So we need added techniques.. in assertiveness its not just what you say, but the speed of reaction. mitigating common deflection statements by the other person. Its life fighting at the face to face level.

Probably a book on it out there. I worked in academia, they are brilliant at having a zillion deflection statements, but maybe not so great with speed and reaction times. Not so adrenaline soaked.

In the working class situations, the statements are simpler but you have to speak with very strong statements, and train your verbal reaction times to produce adrenaline on tap.

Middle ground areas are large scale engineering you need a bit of both approaches.

I often laugh, when people say they have a lifetimes experience in something, its not in the knowledge of the field, but usually in how to distribute loads and pass the buck… especially when it comes to dealing with change.

Dont be cynical though, its still better when everybody is working happy together as a team. Hopefully a good manager should take care of unfair treatments.

57 Mike D February 15, 2013 at 9:40 am

Well written article about Assertiveness. Far too often the Nice Guy syndrome causes men to feel that expressing what they want or need is somehow “wrong” or being “mean and uncaring” about others.

The key thing to remember is being Assertive is part of Self Love; Love yourself enough to stand up for yourself, your wants, your needs and your beliefs. If people have a “problem’ with you doing that, it is an indication of their “stuff” that they need to work out not a requirement that you change to accommodate them.

Again, well done on the article bro!

58 Heather G. February 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

” I worked in academia, they are brilliant at having a zillion deflection statements, but maybe not so great with speed and reaction times. Not so adrenaline soaked. ”

@ brento:

You are spot on! This is where “yo’ mama” jokes in elementary stem from. For some this skill stagnates, others it evolves (listen to gangsters talk, or policemen, or comedians).

I agree, the above would be a great follow-up article. I’m sure you can even come up with a Luminosity type website to “hone” your come-back skillz.

59 Anderson February 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I realized that I need to re-read this article a couple of times, following the branching links and additional resources.

This article can be a life-changer. Amazing work, thanks!

60 Nigel February 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I must say, the worst area for me when it comes to being assertive is just women. Especially a lady that i fancy, i automatically assume the i will be you hero mode and all that you desire I will make it possible. I may be struggling financially but will go to lengths just to make her happy, when she says let’s do something, i’m like yea, whatever you want to do. Cool.

What is funny is that my younger sister pointed it out to me the other day. She said you are just too nice, and it is no wonder that I always end up unhappy with girls I fancy and resent even talking to them when they don’t let me be their man.

Basically, i need to grow a pair, to be fair and honest. And sometimes, in solitude, you begin to question just what you stand for, because without that, you will always be fighting the cause of others and have nothing to call your own.

61 Alejandro February 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I learned the hard way years ago that it doesn’t always pay to be nice. In some situations, you just have to get loud and abrupt, even if that means you piss off a few people. In this politically correct world, it’s become improper for men to assert themselves, especially towards women, lest they be seen as brutish and disrespectful or worst, just plain violent. I grew up shy and introverted, so other people had a good time running over me. It wasn’t until I reached my 30s that I really started to talk back to people and stopped trying to placate everyone around me. It’s amazing, though, how shocked some folks react when you stand up for yourself. Sometimes they get so offended, as if though they’re feelings suddenly got hurt. But, as the old saying goes, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

62 J.James February 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Thank you thank you thank you….

63 Corrie February 19, 2013 at 12:14 am

Not to crash the male bonding party or anything, but I thought this was a cool article too! Us ladies are not keen on “nice guys” either. They seem fine, upfront, but then the resentment kicks in, or they don’t make decisions, or whatever. It’s tricky because we don’t want a “mean guy,” we don’t want someone who’s going to jerk us around–but then the “nice guys” are confused and upset and unable to really say and be who they want–it’s really awful because we feel like we can’t win.

We don’t have our shit together, either. A lot of us are really passive, too. We let ourselves be walked on, taken advantage of, etc (a lot of time, walked on by each other). That’s a big problem, as I’m sure you know. So I really enjoyed reading this just because I think we all struggle with how to say, respectfully, “No, I can not go to that office party this weekend when I could spend time with my friends/kids.” I think the things in this article should be more widely read by everyone, so I’m glad I stumbled upon it, and I think you guys are great.

64 Martin February 20, 2013 at 1:46 am

I deeply respect the effort you’ve put into this article to make good guys feel manly. This article urged me to write a small comment, which is against my nature due to the fact that I also do suffer from being to nice, even online.

Let’s start small, though I’m keeping the good guy charm in my arsenal

65 Trent Levitt February 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

This is much better than that episode of Spongebob I watched.

66 Mike February 22, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Great write up on this topic. I’ve been dealing with transforming myself from a doormat to a real person for six months. What I found out about myself and those near to me was shocking. It is a hard journey to transform yourself, and as I read somewhere, you have relapses of being nice, but consistency (as explored elsewhere on this site) pays off. This article was a great and timely reminder for me.

I also have to suggest like another post here that learning to shave like your grandfather is also very important. My wife was very critical about me doing this (another issue) but I did it and now the 20-30 minutes it takes to shave is meditation time and also leaves me feeling connected to who I am. Not to mention my face looks much better now (took sometime to get adjusted). I’ve also taken up boxing. This teaches you the skill set to be assertive and stand up for yourself – particularly when you are in a difficult situation and feel like backing down.

67 Orrie February 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

Excellent article! Tought me a few things about myself and needs to be shared with those you know who are below par on being a man.

68 Aaron February 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I think everyone should take a jiu jitsu class :)

69 Zach March 3, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Thanks for this post. Our modern culture needs this. This has been one of my problems. I have been assertive, but let it go. It was even worse going back to the passiveness. I am going to implement these suggestions and want to encourage others to do the same.

70 Alberto Guadarrama March 10, 2013 at 1:37 am

This article is the reason I decided to Subscribe. Absolutely beautiful and powerful for a successful relationship with anyone!
As a college freshman, this will definitely come in handy!

71 Noah April 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Wow, you have no idea how much this article has lifted my spirit. Thank you very much.

72 Gareth April 11, 2013 at 5:54 am

Fantastic article, Brett and Kate. Assertiveness is an essential skill for any man.This post is very comprehensive, well-balanced and helpful. I particularly liked the section on dealing with people who are used to ‘Mr Doormat’. I think anyone who tries to become more assertive will meet with some resistance from others (who are used to getting their way) and so it’s important to ‘stay the course’.

73 Alistair April 20, 2013 at 10:04 am

I am going through a shocking time at the momment due to being such an easy going happy go lucky passive guy.I am dealing with depression,something i have had since i was 13(i’m now 32).In my life i have got places by people pleasing which i well know is a big disablement of myself and eventually leads me to go back to a very dark and dangerous place.I don’t know if i can get through this current ebb of depression but as i’m reading these sort of positive blogs know that i must be in a kinda good place.Hoping to get better keep the blogs coming!

74 kyleh June 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm

This has been an eye opener for me. I have been with my partner for about 6 months and just recently he has been unhappy. He feels I don’t challenge him. Not in the IQ department but period. I am a pushover. I am passive and way too easy going. Thank you for putting this article out. It will be something I read daily.

75 Vicky June 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Thanks for the article! The one reason that I struggle to be assertive is my poor skills in judging when to be assertive. The question list from Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons will definitely help!

76 Kimberly June 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I am so happy that I found this. Even though I am a woman, I feel like this whole excerpt pegged me out to a T. I have always been the people pleaser especially the last few years and this has given me the confidence to try something else. I’ve also just gotten into a relationship and notice that my passiveness wasn’t really getting us anywhere. He’d suggest something as simple as where to go to dinner and I would just follow suit knowing that I didn’t really want to go or didn’t have an opinion. We had a discussion and noticed that behavior wasn’t a good one for me to have. Not only for us but just in life in general. I know that I need to stand up for myself and stop being the doormat to my friends, family, coworkers and even strangers that might want to take me for a loop, sometimes unknowingly. I know it will take practice but this piece is such a great launching pad to teach people that what they want out of life matters and it should matter to them. If we really want something we just need to really go for it and not be so concerned with what others might think. Im so grateful for this!

77 Davis Nguyen June 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Before, it was feeling people would see you as a jerk. But now I realized, being assertive doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk.

78 Neil June 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I can’t always be assertive because I feel like it will lead into a pointless argument. And I also feel that some people will think of me as this person with a short fuse.

79 Simon June 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Very good article.

80 Susan June 27, 2013 at 1:28 am

Great article. Thanks. To echo Kimberly’s sentiments above, it hits home with me, even being a woman. My biggest problem is that I might overthink things and get stage fright. I get all ready to go over to my “peer” and tell her we need to be partners and share information with each other (she does NOT share info!!) and then my stomach caves in and I avoid it, feeling ashamed and loser-like. I hope to gain strength from this article and practicing. I do feel resentful a lot of the time towards a lot of people. It isn’t fair and it’s frustrating.

81 Magdy Malak July 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

These tips are very good and very benificial

82 Basil July 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I tried to become more assertive, but on the way found myself actually expressing my assertiveness only to certain people who could “take it.” In short, it came out as emotionally charged outbursts around those who knew me best instead of a level confidence everywhere. So be careful when being assertive that you don’t accidentally bully someone you care about in an attempt to be more open about your needs. It’s easy to let those years of pent-up push-over regrets spill out in anger when the people who expect you to go along all the time show resistance to your new found confidence. Remember to take a step back and be sure your assertiveness isn’t becoming aggression.

83 Pat July 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

My Grandmother (who was a freedom fighter) used to say: “Depending on the will of another is the definition of slavery”. So if you find yourself in that place, no matter what the cause whether it be upbringing, schooling, parents, friends, it’s time to get free and to do that; grow NUTS and use N.U.Ts! Good luck.

84 Hello August 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I disagree with you in the part where you discourage persistently asking for something. For example I’m dealing with some clients who are too busy to pay for the web design services that I did for them last month. I’ve been patient enough and courteous in reminding them to pay me. Until one snapped and accussed me of being pushy. What should I do now? Simple! I’ve opted to close their accounts. To cut the long story short, there will be situations where being assertive and persistent in asking will be the best and only option (but up to a certain point).

85 Brian Satterlee September 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Nice article with a lot of detail. I do think you need to choose the right times to be assertive, as you mention, but you do need to stand up for your needs.

86 Cathy September 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

This is excellent. I really would fancy sending this to my husband. We are on the brink of divorce after 13 years of marriage. I’ve lost all respect for him. He is a pushover. With me and everyone. He’ll complain about things his friends do but he’ll never speak up and do something about it. He’s a nice guy and a loyal guy but I feel like I have a puppy rather than a man. Very sad. Wish he’d wake up.

87 Dan September 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Being exposed to violence can really knock your confidence. Ive took a beating on multiple occasions when trying to assert myself. I probably went about it the wrong way, or was simply asserting myself to bad people. though, i do feel like, if i make N.U.T’s that i will get a kick in. thanks for an interesting read, its gonna take some practice. :)

88 Isaiah muita October 14, 2013 at 7:40 am

you have truly changes my way of thinking. I now know I need to create boundaries. Thank you very much.

89 Ameya October 17, 2013 at 12:27 am

This is the single best article about assertiveness that I have read. The article itself and so many of the comments even are exactly my life. There are friends of mine who even explicitly go out and say it- “you are too nice, Ameya!”. It is satisfying to know I am not the only one like this, but at the same time, its a lot of hard work to become assertive and even if I were to do it, will I be happy when I am assertive? I don’t feel so sure about it and that holds me back from the effort. What is the point of trying to change what you are? Will you like what you will become? Even if I am able to order people around, I do NOT feel good about it, very deep down. I feel bad for them and so I don’t do it.

90 Ameya October 17, 2013 at 12:33 am

I would also like add that, I am a nice guy and I also am an introvert and I don’t like to talk much. As much I can get done with least talking the better. Even getting pushed around is better than having to argue and talk. I think that is why I actually choose this way of life. What you suggest to do requires me to open my mouth which is the worst thing for me to do. Lately I’ve come to realize that quite many arguments in life (not all) that are “won” by the “winners” not by technical merit of their argument but more simply by who talks the most and who talks last. Really need to talk more….and try liking it? don’t think so! :)

91 Sarah October 29, 2013 at 4:55 am

Great article. I am a woman and everything here also applies to me.

This line “No need to feel guilty for treating yourself like their equal.” really struck a chord.

I´m fed up with being treated like a doormat, but I know I have allowed it due to being worried about people´s reactions.

I need to make a change. I´ll be coming back to this site later.

92 Ayden November 13, 2013 at 10:29 am

I recognized myself in this article. For example I always think about what I would say, but I never really say it.

This site gave me so much so that I could work on myself.
This is the next step for me.

93 Joseph November 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

My problem is I feel the need to be liked by certain people so I won’t speak up. I also hate conflict so I hide my feelings a lot. I have been this way all my life. I don’t know if I can make a 180 but I can make small changes and accept the rest about myself.

94 Bob November 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Great post. I realized after reading it that it is the core reason behind all my perceived unfilfilled goals. Seems pointless now to try to work on self improvement, goal achievement, successs etc… if I can’t work on this very important character trait of a strong man.
Thanks again.

95 Tiffany B December 3, 2013 at 1:34 am

You know, I realize this is posted on a male-oriented website, and that this post is made pretty much specifically for men, but I gotta say, as a woman I find this article very helpful aswell!
Thanks, Art of Manliness for helping even us women out!

96 Gary December 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

This article is exactly what i was looking for. Thanks a million sir.

97 kadi December 8, 2013 at 2:34 am

An other important step to be assertive: put your voice at the right level (volume and tone). Forgetting this one might ruin all your efforts.

98 Darius December 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I’m a teenager, and today in the bus some kids were throwing stuff at me, and hid as soon as I realized. I didn’t want to ruin the peace in the bus by confronting them and alarming the driver, but after reading this article I realize that when someone like them crosses your personal boundaries you do whatever satisfies YOU, brilliant article

99 Jords December 24, 2013 at 5:04 am

I like to keep the peace and it definately interferes and limits me in getting my desires. I seem to have developed the habit of sacrificing my wants and feelings for the sake of peace keeping and not wanting to offend, hurt, or displease others. One of my family member felt it neccessary to speak for me when I was asked a question. I was able to politely say that I am capable of answering the question and I proceeded to do so. This is a step in the right direction and I am sure I will be faced with other opportunities to be assertive, and I will continue to exercise assertiveness.

100 Eric Petersen December 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Assertiveness has always been fairly easy for me when I really don’t care about the situation, whether that be telling someone I will or will not go to an event or letting a girl know how I feel about our relationship when I don’t want to date them.

Assertiveness becomes harder when I feel like there is something on the line. Maybe I want to date a women and I need to do some work to get there or I am seeking out a new position at work. I have learned to just take it one step at a time and to realize things are going to be better off if I’m assertive. That tends to calm me down, give me the proper perspective, and guide me in the right direction. Now if only I could work out the nerves in those situations I feel I will be golden.

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