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Setting Boundaries Appropriately: Assertiveness Training

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 26th 2016

Assertiveness Training suggests that there are essentially three different ways that people can relate to one another. They can be: 1) aggressive, 2) passive or 3) assertive. Most people come to assertiveness training already understanding what aggression and passivity mean, but they don't understand assertiveness at all, at first.

Aggression is about dominance. A person is aggressive when they impose their will onto another person and force them to submit, in effect invading that person's personal space and boundary. Violence may be used in this effort, but it is not a necessary component of aggression. Passivity, on the other hand is about submission. Passivity occurs when a person submits to another person's dominance play, putting their own wishes and desires aside so as to pay attention to fulfilling the wishes and desires of their dominant partner. They may not like being dominated (most people don't), but it seems like the smart thing to do at the time (perhaps to avoid the threat of violence or other coercion). Aggression is about domination and invasion; it is fundamentally disrespectful of relationship partner's personal boundaries. Passivity is about submission and being invaded; it is fundamentally disrespectful of one's own personal boundaries.

In contrast to these two fundamentally disrespectful positions, assertiveness is about finding a middle way between aggression and passivity that best respects the personal boundaries of all relationship partners. Assertive people defend themselves when someone else attempts to dominate them, using any necessary method (including force) to repel the invasion attempt. Though they can be strong people who are capable of aggressive domination attempts, they never act in an aggressive manner, however, because they know that to do so would cause them to disrespect their relationship partner's boundaries. Another way to say this is that assertive people use aggression defensively, and never offensively.

There are many classic examples of assertive behavior in history that you can draw upon for guidance and inspiration. The examples of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King come to mind readily, however. Both were leaders of oppressed, invaded groups who were dominated by an upper class (British colonials in the case of Gandhi, and the American white establishment in the case of Dr. King). Both leaders came to a realization that submission to the ruling powers was no longer working and that something drastic had to happen. Both leaders chose a path of non-violent resistance - this is what makes their behavior assertive rather than aggressive and what separates them from run-of-the-mill freedom fighters everywhere. Their commitment to non-violent resistance is what made them great. Both leaders demonstrated and protested against their oppression by the powers that held them down, but did so in a manner that respected the people wielding those powers to not themselves be violently targeted or oppressed. Both stuck to their posture of assertive protest despite becoming targets for escalating violence against their person, their families and the people they represented. In the end, both succeeded in making important reform occur, even if only imperfectly. They were able to make change occur through assertion, and you can do it too.

It is very hard for people used to acting passively to understand how to act assertively, however. Many people new to assertiveness training mistake aggressiveness for assertiveness. This is because their baseline position is passivity, and they literally cannot conceive that there is any alternative to just giving in to the demands of others other than to "fight fire with fire", usually in the same violent manner that their dominant partners model for them. Such newly "assertive" people will start yelling and screaming back at people who have historically yelled and screamed at them, not realizing in their newly empowered angry state that by acting in this way, they are going far beyond what is necessary for defending themselves, and may enter into the realm of becoming themselves abusive and dominating. This beginners mistake is probably inevitable, and certainly okay to make as a temporary and transitional stage towards better learning how to become assertive, but no one should linger there unnecessarily long. To do so is to substitute aggression for passivity, and to become a bully yourself.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

A Passive living with it - and no clue - Kathryn - Jul 13th 2013

In the 70's assertiveness training came forward. I either couldn't find the right place/time to formally take it; so I had to hone my style of communicating myself. A great book on 'Boundaries' also played a big role for me. Talking has never been a problem with me. But assertiveness has. I did study and became a speech therapist! Assertiveness training is so important. So good to see it on line. 

MY PROBLEM: I am wanting to say to my new Great Granddaughter's mother - you are passive - You can be - need to be Assertive. She is painfully passive and now with a newborn - her world is smaller because she lives with an assertive person and an aggressive person. 

How do I do that without getting everyone pissed off?

assertiveness training - Ruud Verweij - Jan 23rd 2013

Hi Mark,

Very interesting article about assertiveness training.
Old post, but stil true.

Thanks for sharing.
Greetings from Holland.





long road for me - lovelight - Dec 28th 2012

I read some comments and  some  rang very true  with me  and did  tear  me down  on  the inside  a  bit since  it's  something I'm still  dealing with. It's  not  a sickness  it's just  how we've  been  dealt with in  life  and  acknowledging  is  the first  step  I guess. Took  me  a while but I  learnt eventually  after  leaving  an oppressive  religious lifestyle  that the  reason behind the issues  in  my  life was related to poor decisions and also  a lot  of  emotional problems. I feel very alone a lot and abandoned  and being the outsider  even in my own family  and having a  very high intuition,  I feel "energies"  and so on.

I'm  supposed to also have  some psychic and emotional difficulties but  since  "rebelling"  from christianity 4 years ago  I  realized  the  journey had only just started, from depression to  anxiety to  unbearable feelings  of  emptiness, loneliness, nobody understanding  you, inability to  concentrate, lack of  vitality, wanting to die,  sucky  relationships  and  all  round feeling  like a a failure  every minute  when you look  around  you  and see  people  "succeeding." I  do have some habits  of escapism here and  there  and  sometimes  i  literally need  to  escape  from  my  own  mind  and  "be still"  because  if I  let  negative thoughts  and  feelings win  I could  even give  in  to  drugs (not  psychedelics  but more  like alcohol, pills etc), mental breakdown  and eventualy suicide if  I let  it.

I had very poor  direction growing up from both parents and I feel that sometimes i made "bad" decisions..maybe  i  chose  the  wrong family...?  Or  maybe it's  karma that's  tied us together..?I don't want to focus on previous lives  or anything,  but  I  do feel that every  action has a reaction (if you believe in karma or not  you  might know what  I  mean.) I feel that after all  these years, and still  being in my early  20s  I  might finally  be  getting  somewhere.  I'm  planning  on  finally  finishing  university (this  is  my  2nd  time there btw), and  then  getting the hell  out  of  "home",  sorting  myself  out financially then maybe  really living life  and  starting  afresh and looking out for ME for  once.

Would also  be getting  a  lot  of counselling as well  to help  and keep  on with  the self  affirmations, self hypnosis and  meditation,  surrounding  myself  with  some positive people  during  spiritual  retreats have helped   and even simple online  conversations  with like minded people.  The downside of these  so-called  self  assertive classes  are that they charge a lot  of money!  I saw an ad  for  one  which cost £1,800+  its terribly  unreasonable charging that  much and actually  ironically exploits people who are  seeking to boost  their self esteem. I  feel  you can do  it  on  your own if  like  me you  can't readily  afford  it. Therapy and  counselling is a  good  start and  positive  self affirmations and self hypnosis.  You  don't necessarily  need a  "class." Not everyone  is  comfortable in  social  situations and  besides what if  it doesn't   work??  That's your money wasted!

I'm not  trying to be a  pessimist. I'm  sure it's worked  for some people!  But  i  think such courses and classes do  make  you  feel  like  you  should be dependent on them  to  suddenly  become  an  assertive  person. I mean  it's a business  after  all.  They should  pretty much be a  reasonable  price  and  something that  is a  weekly ongoing class rather  than a  one-off  thing that charges  exhorbitant prices to "help" boost people  seriously fragmented  confidence  and  also  make  it  interactive  because we're  all  different  after  all! Kudos for those  people  that have made it and managed  to  get out  of  the  "rut".

I'm still there sadly and  it'll take  me  a  fair  while  whilst  I  get  myself in order..things are a bit slow  at  the  mo and  I  know  I  need to  be  strong  now  and just  keep sending my prayers out  to the universe  for  all  the  support and help and  aids  I  can get. Eventually the guilt will  stop. I need to  learn that just  because I'm related  to someone  or  someone helps me doesnt mean i'm  indebted  to  them with  my  life  because it becomes  an  unhealthy  relationship and more like a  co-dependency rather than  a  one-on-one mutual support. I  feel  such  relationships  are  what I  have lacked  and still do-  deep, honest  relationships with  mutual feelings and support  rather  than  emotional manipulation, one-sided feelings  of understanding and showing  of  love  and  affection and  always  sacrificing. Maybe  things are changing  since i'm confronting  my inner fears now and  I've met a like  minded person..maybe they'll t urn out to be my first two-sided  relationship??  haha..sounds funny huh. :P  People who have  such  things take  them  for  granted hmmm.

 My ultimate dream is to  settle  somewhere;  a new  country.  Always been drawn  to nepal.  Want  to grow up the  right way  this  time. I want to be  a proper  adult and  not  feel guilty for my inner  child's needs  and  wants. Nice  to  know there's  others  going through the  same things  and  some of you  are really  fortunate  to have partners  and  kids  that  can give you a  boost!  It;s  remarkable  how much we're  all  willing  to  share our  lives with  complete "strangers" in the  social  sense  but yet  we  have  so  much  in  common!!  The road  hasn't  been  easy but  I  won't give  up.  Love and  light   to all  xx It was swell sharing my story with you guys


More on my request from previous post - Hol - Nov 28th 2012

Well, I finally got my employer to at least open up some conversation to me by asking him to schedule 10 min. from the day to address the issue.  He sat down and said he had 10 min.  Well, he proceeded to tell me that he already spends $500/mo. on research on line service.  Its a complicated service that I hadn't used because I'm not used to it.  So, although I liked my idea better, I decided to try his and I did find an answer there.  I am proud that I at least got him to talk about it or else I wouldn't have learned anything I would have just stayed angry.  My anger is much decreased.  Thank you for listening. 

More on asserting my request - Hol - Nov 16th 2012

Well, in regards to asking for some training manuals from my employer, I also read some of your literature on emotional awareness.  In the midst of my anger I feel I needed some help there.  My boss came into work and annouced he was soo happy because he had just booked a cruise at a great price, so in an attempt to express my emotion AND bring up my request.  I humoursly screwed up my face and said... can you pllleease look at those books i want?  His said, i promise I'll do it today.  Well, he didn't.  He worked hard at something he wanted to get done.  At the end of the day he announced he was so happy not to have to come back at night and work, so i humorsly added, yes you have to come back and look at those books!  He said oh, yeah I probably still have a few minutes to do it before I leave.  Get this...he didn't!  He found other things to do before he left work and didn't do it. So, then I pasted a sticky note to his computer to remind him because I'm off until Monday.   The one bright message that came through to me was that as long as I didn't give up I still feel good about myself.  I haven't given up yet and I haven't lost my temper in front of him.  I am contemplating telling him that I'm on strike from those kind of projects until I have the proper training the next time one of those projects come into the office.  I still have anger, it is my alarm light. 

More from Hol - Hol - Nov 15th 2012

Well, I brought up my desires of having some training manuals (cont. from Nov. 12 post) to my employer.  First day he heard me but no action.  Second day I printed off the ads for the books I felt would be helpful to me and put them on his chair.  Later asked him if he had a chance to look at them.  He said he'd been busy but promised to look at them that day.  No indication at the end of the day that he had looked at them, so I again brought it up.  In the mean time I'm doing the best I can at my job, and also trying to "care" for myself.  Yesterday when i felt anger building, I listened to Pandora radio while I worked and it calmed me down so I felt more in control.   It feels like he is waiting for me to forget about it and that's adds fuel to my anger fire and when my efforts at trying to address my concerns reasonably are not rewarded, it makes me like I'm doing something wrong.  I do not want to make agressive remarks so I'll go running before work.  I know he hasn't "forgotten".  I know him better than that and he certainly makes enough money.  Am unsure of my next move, but will post a cont. later.  I can't continue to work at new areas of our work without propert training. It is too stressful because I genuinely care about doing a decent job for people. Thank you for listening.   

Understand I've been there - A suggestion - Hol - Nov 13th 2012

I know first hand what you all are feeling.  It is not at all fun.

Here's a suggestion I found.  Make an assertiveness journal.  List something that stresses you (about your own life) and you think you want to change.  List day by day whatever (even if it's small) the things you did to bring change.  Today I'm asking my employer to purchase some training books for me since I have been taking on too much work and doing it without enough training.  I guess I have a hard time admitting I can't do something.  I get angry and suppress it, but that is making me feel too stressed.  So off to work I go and pray I can do this without getting too upset cause I'm already getting upset thinking about it, but somethings gotta give.   Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.  It helps.

OUT OF THE FOG - - Nov 11th 2012

I could never understand what was wrong with me. Was I suffering from some kind of mental retardation? Why do I have a hard time saying exactly what I feel and not just when it all built up so much that I would just act out in anger and rage? As a child I was very timid and shy and a constant target for bullies without even realizing it. I grew up in a family of controlling passive aggressive women. My mother was controlling and nagging. Once my parents’ divorced I moved out of state with my aunt the youngest of my mom’s sisters. At the time she (my aunt) was patient and understanding to my needs but as I began to get older I realized that there was something wrong with our relationship. I lived with my aunt from age 9- 24 until I became pregnant with my boyfriend who is also PA and a cocaine user.

While living with my aunt she gave me things without little effort on my part food in excess, clothes, jewelry but she was also manipulative to me not allowing me to mature in a healthy way. She kept me very dependent on her and with each birthday reminding me that despite my age I am still her niece and must respect and obey her rules, all which was very confusing being that I’ve always been so compliant.

Growing up I was not able to question anything everything was given to me in such a manner that I've always felt helpless and needy. Emotional I feel like a child. I quickly cower down during conflict and don’t speak up and when I do I feel guilty for it. I am in need of a way to help build myself esteem, confidence, and worth.

I now have a four year old who is bright and charismatic but I see that he too is developing signs of being unsure of himself. I am tired of living in doubt and shame I’m tired of feeling victimized by people and situations around me I feel that I am stronger than that and I want to escape this fog I am in.


Great Posts, Information and Forum - David L. - Sep 7th 2012

Reading the information and comments posted on this site has been inspiring. I'm thirty-three years old and have struggled with being assertive and fulfilling my own needs my whole life. I grew up in two different parent's households as a child, learning very different lessons about being assertive. My mother is passive-aggressive and has struggled with how she feels about herself her whole life; my father is assertive and confident, generally, but can also be passive and/or passive aggressive about fulfilling his own needs in certain regards. Me, I've struggled, through trial and error, to find a middle ground where I'm comfortable and feel good about myself. After visiting this site, I've come to realize now that it's up to me to learn to think differently and put aside some of my own residual self-doubt and guilt for doing so. Visiting this website, finding concrete information, and seeing other people taking the initiative to change (and talking about it) makes me feel loads more confident about my own chances for successfully doing so. I hope this brief post reaches you in the way other posts here have reached me! Best with your efforts at change, becoming more assertive, and God bless. 

Oh, how I relate to these posts... - - May 7th 2012

Thank you all for writing these posts. I am struggling with issues of assertion with respect to my family.

I was raised by a very overbearing (passive-aggressive) mother who, despite my being 31 years old, still runs guilt trips on me to get what she wants. Yesterday, she did the same to my fiance. While I am passive, he is assertive. The fallout from this has brought so many issues to light.

My entire relationship with my fiance has been riddled with pressures and demands from my family, and the words 'expectation' and 'disappointment' are often used in attempts to coerce us into doing what they want us to do. Because I am passive, I have always submitted to their demands. Because my fiance is assertive and refuses to compromise himself, countless arguments have ensued on this topic. After nearly 10 years together, I feel I've made no progress in this area of our relationship. He cannot fathom why I would sacrifice my own happiness in order to please others, and I cannot understand why, despite what I consider great effort, nothing changes.

As he put it, every 1-3 months something comes up. No matter how much I think I learn each time this happens, 1-3 months later it happens all over again. As I write this, instead of taking a mini vacation, I'm sitting at home on poor terms with both him and my family. And I realize I have noone to blame but myself for this. It's hard to realize that others will respect you more when you stand your ground, that your family won't (or, has no right to) disown you if you do what you want to do, and that it's terrifying for another person to be in a relationship that leaves them wondering what I'll be coerced into next. He has every right to voice concerns on the matter: passive-aggressive mom (and sisters) + extremely passive daughter = serious boundary issues.

Back to the point of this article, I'm realizing the value of assertion and also the value of the ability to foresee situations where I must preemptively assert myself. After all, at 31, there is no reason (other than a fault of my own) that a mother-in-law should feel it's ok to call her son-in-law and tell him she would be 'disappointed' and 'sad' if she didn't see him that day. Boundary issues, check. Assertion issues, check. Crossing the bridge from passivity to assertion, now that I have yet to figure out. Here's to hoping that it clicks before it's too late.

Parents to claim to be Christian are abusive - pam - Mar 8th 2012

My father never called my mother on her abusive behavior or comments to me and mostly "stayed gone" through work reasons while I was growing up.  I have been told by her personally that my grandmother 'stole' me from her and that as a mother she 'doesn't think...that she ever bonded with me when I was a child' (!).  I am pretty sure she is bpd but both my parents claim to be Christian, cite the Bible, "respect your parents", etc.  I am 57 years old and my dad uses my desire to keep a relationship with him to manipulate me into allowing my mother to continue to be abusive.  "It's a package deal".  If I say to him what she has said/done as a reason for my needing to keep an emotional distance, he just says that he doesn't believe she would ever do what I have told him she did.  But the entire family knows that basically he is in last-stage denial and always has been.  He believes in marriage/peace at any price.  I am the oldest of 5 and the scapegoat for all the family issues, which there are plenty of.  I have attempted many times to write my feelings down, communicating how something they have done has made me feel, not accusing them of being something or other or calling names.  My dad says I am disrespectful and gives my position absolutely no credence, altho he has asked me in recent past years 'why are you so different with Mom now?', meaning that I seem to be more patient, etc.  I flat told him that it was because I love him and want a relationship with him, so I am willing to take one for the club.  He also acknowledged how difficult she can be for him, too.  His tolerance of her adolescent and nasty behavior has allowed her to run ragged over me and over a lot of others too.  I know this issue is as much due to him as to her.  I have basically stopped communicating with them at all after a particularly nasty exchange with her after I told her I didn't want to hear her gossip about my sister, whom she clearly favors anyway and whom she would turn around and talk to about me!  Now I am getting unprovoked wierd and mean, random letters and notes from her.  She is trying to get me to react so she can gripe to my family about me some more.  I refuse to do so and throw these things away (we live in different states).  There is no boundry setting with this person (s).  They are never wrong!  I have been to counseling (after a bad divorce 20 years ago to a man who - surprise - treated me a lot like she did!) and I know what is "supposed" to work when trying to be assertive.  There are just some people there is no talking to.          

breaking free - - Jan 22nd 2012

"I have a very manipulative and controlling mother who tried to keep me a child to make up for her unhappy marriage.  At 34, I finally broke free and got married, but it took a lot of upheaval.  It has been so great to be free."

Thank you for posting this simple and beautiful comment. I needed to hear concise suggestions for breaking free from a controlling parent. My life is a nightmare, and I have become so accustomed to catering to the needs of an aggressive abusive family that I have no real sense of autonomy, I have reciently saved enough money to escape, and am afriad to do so. I need assertiveness training or something of the sort because I feel incapable of leaving and having my own life. My Own Life. Those words sound so foreign to me. I am 28 and have nothing of my own, no real relationships with people. I just want to thank you all for sharing because I am terrified of what to do next, I have grown accustomed to being the doormat, used and left when I have nothing left to give. The saddest part is that I don't trust myself to be able to sustain independence once I leave, It's a nightmare to not trust your self, to protect you, from the abusiveness you've grown so accustomed to...

been working on it - webi - Dec 26th 2011

hi all.

same for me. been working at it for some years now.Its hard work and some relationships have headed to hell. i dont think i ever had a choice ober the matter. I have only once life to live.


SO if my brother is the sourc eof conflict....too bad he had to go. Havent spoken to him in over a decade. but no regrets. just calm acceptance that i had to do the right thing for myself.


peace yah all.

@Christy - - Dec 20th 2011

Hello Christy,

What you should do is (1) get yourself financially free so you can move out...  (2) post your goals on the wall and read them every day (3) make a three column document and label the columns "Mom's Behavior" "How it made me feel" "How I plan to respond" (4) Each time she does something that makes you feel badly, write a description of the action she did, how it made you feel, analyze how you want to respond in the future to it... plan the words and practice them. 

Next time she pulls the same things on you, you'll be prepared.

I have a very manipulative and controlling mother who tried to keep me a child to make up for her unhappy marriage.  At 34, I finally broke free and got married, but it took a lot of upheaval.  It has been so great to be free.




stand up for yourself because if you dont no one will - - Aug 23rd 2011

Being assertive is to stand up for your beliefs, protect yourself, don’t say sorry if you did nothing wrong, learn to say no, explain yourself why, don’t be shy, be confident, be respectful, be understanding of others, if something still doesn’t feel right speak up. 

Assertiveness training book - Sue Joan - Jun 27th 2011

I have been through assertiveness training as a part of my training for Stephen ministry and find it most useful in dealing with people on a day to day basis.  On one of my listserves, there is an individual who seems very passive and I felt her relationship with her partner would be greatly improved by assertiveness training so I googled to see if there was something similar to the great book we read as a part of our training, but without the Christian orientation and I found your wonderful website and the awsome book, 'Setting boundaries Appropriately: Assertiveness Training' as an online book!  I am sharing the link with everyone and just wanted to thank you so very much for being so kind as to offer this valuable material as you do!

Maybe We've Taken "Assertiveness" A Little Too Far - Suzanne - Mar 26th 2011

I'm beginning to wonder if we've taken "assertiveness," and "assertiveness training," too far. I think people do not understand the true meaning of "assertiveness." When I was growing up, "assertiveness training" became popular. But with the way it was presented, in retrospect, it looked more like aggression. It became more about "how to get what I want" than "how do we resolve problems maturely, and with respect for one another?" That "respect thing" has clearly gone out the window in our quest to become more "assertive."

Now, of course, I'm not saying, "Be a doormat." But I do think the lines between assertiveness, or what it was meant to be, and aggression, have become extremely blurred. And the way assertiveness is presented now has created an entire generation of people who believe they are entitled to whatever they want, whenever they want it, and at others' expense if need be. Hurt feelings? So what? Who cares?

Well, I do. And if that makes me a wuss, fine. I'll take it. But I think so-called assertiveness has led to a degradation of respect, class, courtesy, and manners in our society.

Dr. Dombeck's Note: It is very common for people learning about assertiveness to completely misunderstand it and start acting aggressively.  True assertiveness is nuanced and harder for people who aren't used to it to appreciate right away.  It is not the enemy of being polite, but rather the meeting of equals who are each capable of making clear to others that they wish to be treated as such.  That is different very much so from aggression. 

I come and go. - Jim D. - Mar 9th 2011

I run a service dept. of a few men and I do very good with them most of the the time but I still have my days were Im quiet which may be my personality but when I in go to a meeting and I don't want to be there I am very nervous so I have to remind myself afterwards to get it together please. My boss has to be the most dominate SOB there is and I have worked here for 20 years. ok later


I come and go. - Jim D. - Mar 9th 2011

I run a service dept. of a few men and I do very good with them most of the the time but I still have my days were Im quiet which may be my personality but when I in go to a meeting and I don't want to be there I am very nervous so I have to remind myself afterwards to get it together please. My boss has to be the most dominate SOB there is and I have worked here for 20 years. ok later


ASSERTiveness is the best thing - no-nonsense - Feb 3rd 2011

This is an extremely interesting topic.

It brought back to memory the old adage: "If someone can take advantage of you and get away with it, they will always CONTINUE doing it."


I have a brother who lived in my home for nearly two years. I charged him a very SMALL rent monthly, especially considering today's rent costs. I provided all his heat, shelter, food, did his laundry, etc...

He lived like a packrat, never cleaning up after himself.

Cut the grass? ONCE --- and even then, I had to ask him, and he only cut about half of it.

Shovel the driveway? ONCE ----- then he partially shoveled it one day after I asked him.

Wash any dishes? Hell, I even have a dishwasher, and he was too lazy to load it, let alone turn the damn thing on.

His pets did so much damage to my home, I now have expensive repairs to do all by myself.

When he finally moved out, he promised me his room would be cleared of all his belongings.

It wasn't. He left the crap for me to clean up. Boxes, cartons, butts, ashes, empty pop bottles, and filth from one of his pets, were ALL left for me to contend with.

His 'friends' who were to supposedly pick his belongings up never showed up.

I decided to act assertively and told him in reply email that he will be charged for the storage of his belongings until he returns to Canada. If he STILL does not pick it up, it will be disposed of.

I put his lack of proper actions down to blatant inconsideration, ignorance, and laziness. Too much of a free ride.


If I don't look after myself, no one else will. Time for for some assertive action on my part, and I'm taking it.

Hope this will help someone else who has faced the same situation.

never an answer to "what to do" - lorna - Jun 18th 2010

my new house mate Allison is totally stepped on by her daughter 30 yr old daughter. Now my house make wants some personal time, her daughter is being apparently unreasonable-delivering guilt trips to her mother! even hanging up on her in mid-conversation. However as you have written; her mother is also acting with agression instead of beng assertive. I offer if she asks and then back off, she has to want to find a way and a solution instead of hanging up adn leaving phone at home. etc

Practice, practice - Nobieus - May 6th 2010

Hey I understand, and I can say from experience that being more assertive can definitely improve your relationship with others.  I have suffer, just like everyone else in this room, whether its been talking to women, or standing up for myself in social situations.  I've talked to conselors, read books, and even friends and family memebers offered advice, whenever they weren't taking advantage of me on being a doormat.  One day I just couldn't take it anymore and when off on several people, it was overdue, but it shouldn't have happened that way.  I admit it was difficult to change from pasive to assertive, without becoming aggressive at some point and even now, i am still working on it.  It not going to happen overnight, but it you just keep practicing and you will notice a significant improvement in your life.  I going to join to forum, and start a thread if anyone is interested in practicing or discussing more. 

April 13 ,2010 - - Apr 13th 2010

i have read and know how to deal with people and not always listen to them and make happy.i have right to say no to them sometime and do what makes me happy not other.i always do what other people told me to do and think if i did this to them then they will be happy,but not any more because it doesn't matter if they are happpy all is matter what makes us happy.

Assertive or aggressive - - Mar 17th 2010

How can it be? 

Two sisters raised the same way, one is shy , one is assertive?

Two people coming from the same communist country, one is shy, the other is assertive.

Were they born one way or the other? If they were, then training to be assertive will not work.

sinking passively - Lau - Mar 16th 2010

Hi. I have just finshed reading this article and can understand it to the T, as I myself am in this same situation. I'm the passive one and the other is the dominate one. I have for the last 7 years been putting up with it, the put downs, little digs, do this and the do that's. And if I happen to do anything the way I want it to be done I am made to feel guilty about it because I didn't do as I was told. I was even sleeping with someone 40 years older than myself because they told me to eve though I didn't like them and definately wasn't sexually attracted to them either. I am slowly starting to put my foot down, but even I know I need professional help to continue being assertive. It is blasted hard to tell someone how you feel when for years you have been pushing your own thoughts and feelings aside for someone else who doesn't seem to care enough to respect you the way you deserve. Well I hope to be able to gain the necessary help to get through it and be a better person.

my anger - kevinj1 - Feb 17th 2010

I have never had passive aggression. 've always been moral anger. I feel as though it is ok to take my anger out on other people, but i sometimes have shame anger. Somtimes i am ashamed of my action once i am angry. Every day i strive to work on  my anger. I've learned that writng in my journal is very helpful in my success to manage my anger.

Glad I am not the only one dealing with this - Ann - Feb 7th 2010

I can relate to some many of your comments.  I am a passive person.  I have been passive my entire life.  I had a very aggressive father and a passive mother.  I was a shy child.  Sad to say, I know, but I was afraid of my father.  I think my mother was too.  I grew up in a home environment where my father controlled our family.  As I grew up, I married and I have a daughter and a job.  I have grown out of my shyness.  I'm now more outgoing, but I remain passive.  My passivensss has affected my career.  I always find myself in the same situation where coworkers take advantage of me.  Or there is always the bully at work who wants to see how far I can be pushed.  And I usually let the bully push me and I never defend myself.  AFterward, I am sad.  What makes me sad is not the fact that the bully attacked me, but I am sad in the fact that I did not defend myself.  I am angry with myself for not standing up and defending my boundaries.  I want to be able to assert my feelings in order to establish boundaries.  I want boundaries that protect me from bullies, yet, I don't know how to go about being assertive.  I have actually left jobs because of the way I felt I was being treated by my coworkers.  There was always the bully who tormented me.  I would leave that job and find another job, but again I found myself in the same situation.  I was in a new job, with a new bully.  I have been running away from aggressive people who torture me my whole life.  I want to change.  I want to be assertive.  I want so badly to be one of those people who can so easily say how they honestly feel in a respective way.  I have a problem saying no.  I feel like if I say no, people won't like me.  Not being able to say no has caused problems.  It has caused me to be overloaded with projects and assignments at work -- why --- because I keep telling people yes, I can do that project and yes I can do this assignment.  I have a problem saying no.  At one time I had a coworker to call me a doormat.  She said I allow everyone to walk all over me.  She was right.  I even let her walk all over me.  I have a problem.  I'd like to find a solution.  Apparently from reading all of these comments from other people, I am not alone when it comes to being passive.  Maybe there is hope for me.  I can only believe that someday I will be more in charge of my life and will be able to say no and will be able to state my feelings honestly and let others know how I truly feel without being offensive to anyone but in being direct and honest and establishing boundaries that protect me.

Yes,old dogs can learn new tactics! - Lukenge - Jan 23rd 2010

Hi all,

For me, Iam a man whose issues are different because its strictly to do with feeling so inferior to women and not my fellow men.Iam 27, but I behave like a 4 yr old boy infront of women.Thus, I also feel that someones upbringing has a direct effect on ones personalty or even character.So if the background was bad, it impacts negatively and vice versa.I grew up in a hostile, polygamous family with a ratio of 2:30 (girls to boys) in Africa where my dad was the all time worst perpetrator of aggression.We were not supposed to question what and why he said or even did anything.This heavily eroded myself esteem.Consequently, due to such a faulty structure of my past, I dont even have a girlfriend due to fact that am always overtaken by self inadequacy and inexperience everytime i think of approching any woman.When I finally approach and talk to them,I panick, become so nervous and freaked out that you would think a 4 yr old boy is stuck up in me which makes the potential partner unconfortable.It seems I can let the boy go!!!! but to become a man the boy in me has to die.Talk of seeking approval from and thats me.Will always surrender the power of control to the lady.

Can anyone help me on how not to fear women because it seems thats where my weakest link is.For starters, I will never put my foot down on a lady and will always be intimidated by their presence more especially the beautiful ones.I however, dont have much problems with the way I get along with men apart  from a few bullies. Generally help me to address this passivity issue from the angle of feeling profoundly low in the presence of ladies.Please if possible send your responses or advice, whicever to my

Needs help to say "No" - Reshma - Oct 5th 2009


I need help saying no to my colleagues, as it is now getting me into trouble.  Ifind that they keep on taking advantage of me and my work is slacking.

Please help me.

Many thanks.


A unique situation. - Christy - Jul 10th 2009

I have been scrolling through a lot of the comments on this page, and reading other people's stories has been very insightful.

I have noticed that many of the previous posters grew up in homes where their fathers were the aggressors.  In my case, it is my mother who is the aggressive party.  When she and my father were together, she nagged him and tried to control everything he did.  With my sister and I, she was very overprotective and was very much involved in our lives, as she was strictly a housewife and had quit her job when she started having children.  Now that my parents have separated, my mother is turning her aggression toward my sister and myself.  My sister has always had an assertive nature, so she seems to be handling my mother without any problems.  I, on the other hand, have always had very passive tendencies, so dealing with my mother has become an everyday struggle.

I am 27, and I feel like my mother is holding me back from being an adult.  I have tried to live my life the way in which makes me happy, but that often conflicts with what makes my mother happy, and therefore, she tries to control what I do.  This has caused problems in all of my relationships, including those with other family members, my friends, and in my romantic relationships.  I am unable to relax and enjoy life because I am always worried about what my mother is going to say or do in regard to my activities.  I still feel like a child, when all I want to do is to grow up.  My current boyfriend has given me the ultamatim to either deal with my passiveness now or else our relationship will never move forward.

I find myself feeling angry toward my mother, and I hate that.  I still live with her, and yet I can't stand to be around her.  What can I do?

28 and just learning this part of myself. - Tiffani - Jun 26th 2009

All my life I have internally turned and run from other peoples' aggresive behaviors toward me. I never had a problem standing up for friends or the less fortunate or telling strangers exactly what I thought. But when it comes to standing up for myself- nothing. I always tend to think that I am in the wrong. That I did something wrong to provoke that behavior or that I deserve it. My best friend pointed this out to me and suggested that I attend some assertiveness classes, but I'm broke, so I went to google & found this. After reading this article and everyone's comments, a lot of things made sense. I am also a pacifist and don't believe that anger & violence have ever been the answer to anything. Now I see that I have been doing something wrong all along- I just could never put my finger on exactly what it was. Now I get it! Putting my own emotions and needs aside for agressive people that don't appreciate it will get me nowhere fast, & it has.  Thank you for creating this forum. I will continue my seach for techniques to build inner strengh to stand up for myself. I deserve it!

Assertiveness - Heath - May 21st 2009

I work with young people and find that there is rarely an assertive youth. They seem to be lopsided toward either passive or aggressive. The assertive youth seem few and far between, but you can notice that regardless they are the most successful and on a path to success.

Some People Are Impossible To Deal With Unless You Let Them Always Be Dominant - - May 18th 2009

I have a neighbor who is like this. He will not get along with anyone unless he is in charge or thinks he is. He is unreasonable and manipulative and has no use for anyone or anything unless he gets out of them what he wants. Getting along with him is giving yourself to him and his wants and needs and there is just nothing in it for you. How to deal with a person like this?

Clever and Manipulative Behaviour - Aleena Ahmed - Apr 28th 2009

I've had to work a lot on my generally passive approach towards aggressive people. Dealing with assertive or passive people has not been too difficult because in general I'm respectful [of others and myself] and know how to keep boundaries--In short, I can work things out with them.The most difficult people in my view are the manipulative type. They may act passive, aggressive or even assertive on the surface just to get what they want. They will play with you, changing their styles to suit their purpose. As a straightfwd person I find it difficult to keep up with them and their manipulative strategies, in spite of the fact that often I can see what they are doing! And in this competitive world too many people have learned manipulation, in the workplace and socially. How do you counter clever, manipulative people?

Easier than it looks - Susan - Apr 16th 2009

On the rare occasions that I DO assert myself and express instead of withhold my thoughts or feelings, I find it to be so much easier than I'd imagined, feel so much better about myself, and am able to "let go" of troublesome worries that would otherwise become obsessions that I would stew about for hours or even days.

Assertiveness - - Feb 17th 2009

The first step is to understand what assertiveness is and isn't.  It is a way of being in order to get what you want, in a non-threatening manner.

Good luck to all who seek to be stronger and better connected.

- skilachi - Feb 17th 2009

I have always been someone who caculates my thoughts and expressions before saying them. As a consequence I am perceieved by some to be passive. Others describe me as humble and unassuming. How does one strike the balance between humility and assertiveness? - AJ Kumar - Dec 31st 2008

I write a daily blog on human communication and persuasion.  All the information is free with no ads or products.

all my life it has not been easier - anonymous - Dec 4th 2008

Id give anything just to find a class or a mentor that can get me out of this situation. All my life have neva been happy or taken seroius. i found myself having enemies or people dislike me because of my low self esteem. im growing old now Ive just turned 30. i wonder what the future holds for me. Iam a born coward, i grew up scared of sleeping alone in a room even in my bed. I thought people were angels and innocent and learn from the bible that you have to treat others the way you want them to treat you. I was always smiling, greeting, loving, listening to people. but Ibe benn bullyed, controlled. I have been treated like dirt or like nothing. I just can not seem to know what to say to a person when he talks to me like I have no brain. I have been shouted in front of people, made a joke. I thought I was the most beautiful woman on earth but I feel like the most uglyiest woman on earth. its like Im written that I have no esteem. things that happen to me previously keep on happening because I can not learn from my mistakes. whatever I do I need approval. I just dont seem to be ProActive and Assertive. I can only write english but can not speak it, I tried it all my life wheneva there is someone speaking fluently with me, I found myself in a situation where I cant even say a statement in english and I feel useless and worthless. i need help and this is because I grew in a very controlling environment. i would like o remain anonymous but my email address is there.

Please help me give me contacts of people that can help me, I tried few sychologist but it didnt work. if i can attend confidence class or have a personal mentor or be hipnotized maybe

Starting over - Melinda - Nov 28th 2008

Hi there

I am 23 years old and most of my life I've struggled with being passive. I've always had problems establishing boundaries with co-workers,"friends", and relatives.

Recently, I've had to take responsibility for my life.You see I can't blame others for what they've done to me because it was my job to set them straight.

Check out my blog diariesof a

student - Raejo - Sep 30th 2008

I am tried of being passive and walked on in so many areas of my life.  I wished I took this class in high school!!!

Assertivness = Confidence! :) - - Sep 27th 2008

I used to be passive, I spoke in a low soft, often times meek voice.  I ratherly spoke up during a conflict and I had trouble speaking clearly and coherently. (I stuttered)  I had low self esteem, and it caused problems in my relationship.  My partner felt that she was the one making all the decisions, and being a guy I felt less of a man....I just got sick of it and so I studied up on assertiveness training.  I would read about a siutations in which an individual had to be assertive.  I practiced this aloud. People used to tell me to 'speak up' in the past, so I practiced speaking aloud and recording my voice.  (this gave me loads of confidence)  My relationship was better as I spoke to my partner about my concerns without any guilt or uneasiness.  

But anyway...being assertive is not as hard as it seems.  I'll give you a scenario:

A friend called me up one day when I was home sick.  He asked me if I wanted to hang out, I told him no and he kept asking as though to pressure me into hanging with him so I said: No, I understand that we haven't hung out in a while but I"m staying home.

It ended right there.   Being asserive you don't have to feel guilty for telling someone "No." and why should you? They are telling you what they want, so why can't you do the same?  Change takes time, you'll get better and you'll fall, but you have to keep going with it if you want results.

ASSERTIVENESS TRAINING - Shande1484 - Sep 8th 2008

I am a very passive person. At work my boss has made several propersitions for me to meet him outside work at a hotel. I declined and sort of switched the subject each time the subject was brought up. It has been two months since his last propersition. Now my job is on the line. He is testing my character with other managers. What should I do?

On Passive Aggressive - Chris - Aug 26th 2008

I've been reading the comments here, and see several people say they are passive aggressive, then describing it to mean being passive and then being angry about it. 

 To me, passive-agfressive is getting back at people in quiet, subtle ways.  For instance, and I'm having problems with this right now, I'm being ganged up on at work.  The work situation is bizarre, I'm the only employee, everyone else volunteers, and they all think they are my boss. 

The ganging up pisses me off, so my way of getting back is to neglect to do things I'm supposed to do.  It is a piss poor way of dealing with aggressive behavior on the part of others.  I think I've been doing it so long, I try to stop myself, then find myself back in the pattern. 

 In my current situation, I've tried to set boundaries, but volunteers tend to be the worst of the lot when it comes to aggression.  They don't get paid, so they expect way too much out of the one who DOES get paid.  They also are notorious for perpetuating gossip.  People tend to view volunteering as different than the work environment, so gossip spreads like a highly contageous disease. 

I've tried taking the path of being assertive, and it hasn't gone over too well.  The more I set boundaries, the more my boundaries are pushed back.  The attitude is kind of like, "We own you."

The worst part of it is that I consistently take jobs for non-profits.  I like working for organizations that deal with causes.  It gives me a sense of purpose.  But, everytime I keep ending up back with the problem of the volunteer vs. employee.

It is a unique sitation of it's own. 

NoN- Victim - Vertigo - Jul 18th 2008
I am a grandmother and was very passive-agressive my entire youth. Now, looking back I see very clearly when my most trying moments were, they had to do with blame, nothing takes your power away like blaming someone else.  Take the lens off that dosen't allow you to see how you are affecting the situation.  When we appear weak, the strong come out to test the waters.  stay strong by the words you tell YOURSELF not necessarily what you say to others. When you have to think of ways to come back at someone you are lost. Tell yourself to stay in the moment, to wait before replying, and to have the most positive WWJD type of thoughts. Then get outside of yourself think of other things that would make you happy, don't let anyone bring you down, if they do find someone that brings you happiness and laughter and do that for them too.  Happiness is were it's at.

Well how and what is assertiveness? - - Jun 23rd 2008

I didn't read through all of the comments, but with that said how do you become assertive. What are more traits of assertivness. All of the traits explained are of aggression or passivity. I see the problem now what is the sollution?

Editor's Note:  One way to conceptualize what assertiveness looks like is to think of it as entirely defensive aggression.  that is to say, if you act aggressively towards someone else who has not legitimately provoked you first by invading you in some manner, you are being aggressive yourself.  If, however, someone invades you and you defend yourself, or otherwise push back so as to repel the invasion, and then stop at your own border and do not pursue the attack once you are safe yourself, that is something like assertiveness.  Does that help?  Understanding what assertiveness looks like can be very difficult for people who have only known aggressiveness and passivity.   

Assertive: Wish I took this class in High School - Joyce H. - Jun 18th 2008

This is one class, that I wish I had when I growing up. Until now, I thought there was only aggressive or passive. I'm glad to hear that their are 3 option's now. Thank you.

My thoughts - - May 23rd 2008

Being assertive to me is getting the message out from a place of grace and not from fear and intimidation. Its keeping steady and as to the point as possible in a polite and tactful way, and knowing when to be silent.

Being Assertive is not about changing others - Gayathri - May 7th 2008


Thank you very much for the informative article. I would like to add a couple of points here.

I have been rather passive most of my life, before I took up Self Improvement and Personal Development as my own important responsibility. I learn new things everyday, but these are some of the things I have learned so far.

I grew up in a very controlling atmosphere and learned how to be passive and never speak up for myself, out of fear. And my self-esteem was low in my school days and I always found myself to be on lower rungs than what my potential promised.

I generally felt guilty saying No, spoke in a hushed tone, always seeked approval from others, felt afraid of new ventures, let myself be manipulated and so on. And I ended up associating myself with highly abusive people who found an easy prey in me. I was a sort of magnet for abusive, aggressive individuals because of my passivity. Sometimes I vented all my pent up frustration through spells of anger and violence, followed by guilt and apologies.

When I first learnt about assertiveness, I blamed my upbringing for my passivity. But as I learnt more, I understood that I am fully responsible for who I am. Sure, my upbringing had a big part in shaping me, but I am responsible for changing me and being more assertive. I realised that self improvement is my responsibility, and blaming my parents or abusers or situations or fate wouldn't help. I decided to take charge of my life.

When I assumed responsibility for my actions, I began to see infinite possibilities ahead of me. I saw that I do not need anyone's approval to survive. I learned that I have a right to say no. I found that I alone am responsible for who I associate with, and how I handle them. I saw that Aggressive people "feed" on passive individuals, and every passive response makes them more aggressive.

I realised that aggressive people have even bigger self-esteem issues than me, and that they are really very cowardly. I broke free of aggressive associations. I saw that if everyone and everything around me seemed twisted, then it was my own lens that probably needed replacing. So I got myself an assertive lens.

When I come across aggressive individuals, I remember my rights and stand my ground. I am firm yet polite. I do not let them walk over me or manipulate me. I am OK with some people not liking me. I am OK with having a different opinion and outlook than everyone else. I am OK with myself now.

I am writing down the assertive techniques that helped me become confident and overcome passivity, as an article. If you would like to read it, I will upload it in my self improvement website free of cost. I am thankful to articles like these that helped me improve myself, and this is my way of giving back.

Thank you for reading...

MB, MM, SH, SI, HF, BR, many others inc. family - Barb Dion - May 3rd 2008

Whoa, this font is small.  However...

Try humor as a resort to extremely aggressive behavior.  Try does not always work, but if the perpetrator "sees" you enjoying your own humor in response to their attack, it could make a difference.  I developed a "how clever I am" attitute to deal with the co-workers at my last place of work.  Or even by saying..."I think you're right", or "You may have something there...thank you."   Reverse psychology is an option for those of us who "know" that assertiveness will not work in many situations  The aggressive among us are just too strong.  Diffusion is the key/but diffusion is not passivity.  It may appear to be, but is not. 

 Being ganged up on is something else  I responsed to the ganging up by clearly stating. "You've been talking to so-and-so."  Identifying the perpetrator to the other perpetrators can't hurt, if said in the right way.  Or I would say, 'Why don't you take a break from attacking me for awhile.  Go have a latte or ice cream..." or I would invite that person to take a walk..."Let's talk..."   In most cases, it did work.


passive all my life................ - Michelle - Apr 17th 2008

I have been a passive for my entire life. I am now going to be 32 in a few months. My whole childhood I learned from my mothers passive behavior from my dads aggressive behavior. I realized that I could never be aggressive, but  I do have a few assertive times along with a whole lot of passive behaviors. My family has a large impact on my personal growth, and now that I have children of my own I teach my children to be assertive in ways, although I tend to be passive with my own behaior. My first husband was an aggressive person and I learned to "deal" with him, and was failing with my own life and fearing for my children. Now, I am in a relationship with someone who is passive in ways that I am not, and yet he is aggressive in others. There is no midpoint. In turn I feel I am still passive. I also recently got a job where my everyday work is dealing with different behavioral people, so I am trying to cope with this at work and home. I truley believe how you raise your children will impact their personality behaivor and future. I will continue to learn more about assertiveness by staying focused and doing my best everyday learning how to be assertive and how to handle everyday situations.


Passive agressive - Kris - Apr 4th 2008

I guess I am passive aggressive,I have a hard time standing up for myself,and it gets to me so bad I feel like my head is going to explode.I know this is bad years ago I had problems with my heart beating too fast while I was sleeping and I think it was from holding things in so I would avoid a bad scene with my husband because he had a temper and I did not want to rock my childrens boat,so to speak.Now I am divorced and find myself in the same situation at work,being a door mat and everybody ganging up on me to pick on me and I wish they would dissolve.Or worse.What can I do to make people listen to me

must go forward - michelle - Feb 22nd 2008

I feel that as a child, my speech and sense of self were devastated. I will move forward a little, and then go backwards. Work gets hard and dealing with mother-in-law and sister-in-law gets hard. Sometimes, it is hard to deal with husband. I have came a long ways, though. I have held down a job for 15 years and I have kept inlaws from making a life changing decision on my behalf(an ongoing process). I have learned a whole different language of dealing with these people, because trying to get them to understand my feelings and what was at stake for me just was not working.

I hope that my comment will be of some help to someone.

Graded Exercises - - Feb 11th 2008

All of this talk about "being" assertive is well and good, but what would be a series o graded exercises to practice and develop being assertive.  Perhaps some role-playing models with another person to help, since one really need an "other" to practice this with.

Remeber, both Ghandi and King ended up being killed.  I know the scale is smaller, but if the it seems like one is ricking one's life in being initially assertive, well, it can be a tad intimidating.


Pick your Battles? - Interested Reader - Oct 4th 2007

I cringe every time I hear this phrase.  Being assertive is about protecting and defending yourself on a constant basis.  "Pick your battles" also communicates "don't bother with the toughest battles or the everyday battles".  My rule of thumb is if the situation will affect my emotional state in a negative way now, or later with my family, I need to speak up.  My family should not be punished because I am displacing the anger that I should have used on the offending party.  Yes I have experienced physical violence because of my actions along with just 'power plays' but I feel better about myself because I considered my thoughts to be important even if they were  a view held only by the minority.  I have begun learning how to fight physically and also been licensed to carry a concealed firearm.  You never know what level the offending party will escalate to if authority figures are not available or will not intervene on your behalf.  The place where I have had the hardest time practicing assertiveness is at work.  I was fearful of not having job security, not having friends that would support in my views, or not having friends at all because no one wants to be around a person that challenges the normal way of thinking and doing or even challenging the authority figures themselves when they become abusive.  But actually the opposite has happened.  I've noticed more people like to talk to me and spend time together probably because I seem like a confident and fair person who sticks up for what people secretly think is right. 

- chuesie - Sep 18th 2007

Hi All,

 Yes, assertiveness may mean choosing your response to your situation. I work with an extremely aggressive boss who is unaware of the emotional havoc that is created around her. There are some people who can deal with being a pushover but what happens if all that frustration is built up and you lose sight of who you are, what you want in life and what you truly value regardless of what others may think of you. For years on end, I realise I am somewhat a late bloomer. Ever since I was small, my parents discouraged us from having friends and I can tell you that this have severely impacted our social skills of how to deal effectively with other people. I acknowledged this and have moved on.

I now have a job and I am still having this dilemma. Yes, I agree with earlier comments about not mistaking passivity with compassion. Its just that in this society it may seemed that compassion does not pay off (at least in the short term) but it have far reaching effects. For me, assertiveness is about standing up for yourself (if this is your choice) and for moving on regardless of the damage that others do to you. They dont really hold the power: only God does. Its easier to just let go.

fear is an obstacle to chaning pushovers. - - Sep 15th 2007

 I've read a lot and agree with most, but I believe that being a pushover is a pure passive-agressive behavior....I don't trust pushovers or people who give in too easily. Being someone who is often pushed around, i know how angry i feel toward most of the people i interact with regularly. None has escaped even the slightly, my infamous scorn. I've got one issue or the other.Of couse, most of the time i keep this within me. For me to be happy and successful now and in the near future, i want to develop a more assertive attitude. I don't know how to go about this with those people who have really been dominant over me (parents, older relatives, bosses,teachers).even my mates and younger kids see me as an easy ride at times, its personally embarassing. There is a fear i have that the result would be horrible if i change.

Outcome 1: animosity will develop and escalate to hatred and this could be used to cause me or my family great harm.

Outcome 2: All the build-up within me from all these yrs will shock and isolate those i love, causing pain in our lives.

Outcome 3: I'll be that person much respected for overcoming her fear, but within me, i'll still be the same...afraid and eager to be loved

"It takes a long time to understand nothing... (quote) Edward Dahlberg - Gary - Sep 15th 2007

I've made a life's study of assertiveness, and 25 years of thinking and (un)learning have taught me this: being assertive is simply following your heart, which is your god given right. Be your own judge, and look out for yourself, along with others.

I face every day with a commitment to not be angry just because things dont go my way. It's no one's job but mine to try to make me happy, to make my dreams into reality. With each and every decision I make, I'm committed to a self-responsible perspective. If I cant be happy if things turn south, I don't commit to a decision. That means I don't do anything I cant smile through. When I started this philosophy, I found I had to re-=think many of my decisions. Some I now make differently. Others I now make with more awareness of my own ability to choose my current level of happiness. I have thus effectively taken away from others the power to cause me problems. All things are a result of my own choices, chance, and hopefully a little providence.

The heart of assertiveness is being able to accept the possibilities of worst case scenarios. Life is a series of gambles: each decision is like dropping a coin in a slot machine and pulling the handle. Does it make sense to complain, or blame someone else, if a slot machine doesnt pay off? And does it make sense to drop in a coin we cant afford to lose?

Learn to accept your best as good enough, give yourself room for mistakes, practice laughing at yourself instead of feeling bad for them.  As a human being, I'm born and thus fully licensed to make mistakes, have goofy, stupid, homer simpson moments, etc. And I have my share. But I also have times when I'm quite brilliant. It is in recognising and accepting our own personal mix of strengths and weaknesses, brain surgeon moments and "Homer" moments together, that makes us strong enough to be assertive, yet kind, rather than aggressive or passive. Practice admitting your faults, as a way to challenge yourself to face them and feel ok, regardless of others reactions. (I think it's kind of fun! I laugh at myself, shrug, smile, and show I really dont care who saw my error. The shocked responses tell volumes about those around me!)     

  It's a growing step to believe that confidence simply means adopting a  "can't fail" attitude. Confidence in oneself is achieved as much by facing our human limitations with a "Get-Out-Of-Guilt-Free" card. Face the possibility of an embarassing moment with a shrug and say, why should I feel embarassed just because I had a very typical, human moment! Doesn't everybody? Our parents, in raising us, teach us to surrender our own opinion of ourselves for the opinion of those around us. What we feel becomes unimportant. What others feel becomes paramount. Assertiveness is reclaiming our own natural right to feel good. 

If you want to extinguish criticism from others, I've found that agreeing with the accuser's manipulative statement-- (even if only in admitting to the vaguest of possibilities), while still asserting my own choices, I demonstrate that I am not going to be manipulated- that it simply wont work. "Perhaps you're right, maybe I should do what you say, but I'm still going to do what  want anyway, thank you."  Sending that message repeatedly will show that manipulative/critical statements wont get you into an argument, as you follow you own heart, not someone elses logic. As long as you can accept the consequences for your decisions, you earn the right to make your own way in life. But that means learning to go easy on others for their short-comings, which will thus allow you to go light on yourself. As you learn to empathise, and think up reasons to be forgiving of/excuse others, those same reasons become useful tools in learning to forgive (and strengthen) ourselves.    


- Francesca - Aug 27th 2007
Uh didn't Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. both practice passive resistance-this is a really odd example for an article on assertiveness training.  Assertiveness entails fighting back to defend yourself when necessary, neither movements allowed this.  Bizarre example.

Rebound effect - Jackie - Aug 23rd 2007

My husband takes a more passive approach at work, as others are sometimes aggressive with him.  In turn, he comes home to take out his frustrations on me.  I have developed a passive attitude toward his aggression.  In addition, I was raised in a household where I needed to be passive to survive.  That is all I know. 

 However, I feel I have paid my dues.  I am now going to be assertive, both at home and at work.  (A work situation brought this issue to my attention.) 

 I do feel that you have to be willing to pay the price if your assertiveness costs you your position.  You must decide before taking a stand that you are willing to pay the price and that you are not affraid of that possibility.  It can be scary if you have never defended yourself before.  If you have any advice on this issue, let's hear it, please. 


What about power? - Al Hughes - Jul 25th 2007
Assertiveness is all very well in situations where there is no imbalance of power or the imbalance works in your favour but a lot of the time this condition doesn't exist. I was bullied at work recently (I'm 38 by the way). I was threatened with a physical beating by my bosses best friend and flat-mate. I could have been 'assertive', ended up in hospital, and had him put (back) in prison. Is this the outcome I would wish for though?

passive behavior does not help - Dinesh upadhyay - Jul 7th 2007
During my initial years of service in the Indian Navy, I was passive to the extent that i never bothered for my right or comfort thinking that i will be liked by one and all. But that did not happen. And slowly i starting turning to aggression. This brought more miseries in my life. I suffered and suffered till i learnt about assertiveness. Now i am a soft skill trainer and teach assertiveness. My life has changed. Nobody uses me as a doormate.

Assertive Option - Rajan - Jul 3rd 2007
we need to practice

  • saying yes or no, when we want to
  • ask favors and make requests
  • communicate our feelings and thoughts in an open and direct way
  • and handle put downs

question - Fiona - Jun 15th 2007
Is it possible that 'defensive aggressiveness' so to speak, which is desribed as a way to behave assertively, is unfair to people who are naturally not very good on the defensive? I find that for women at least, it is very difficult to be proactive about assertiveness, or even to stand up for yourself, depending on where you live and who you're dealing with, without being accused of being 'negative' or worse, particularly for a woman. I also think these problems are societal in their basis, tho I understand self-help and self-education about boundaries is often the only solution, it's always worked for me, as long as I was in a position in life to defend myself in the first place, and contemplate these things very long and intensively. It has definitely paid off. I just think people who are naturally good on the defensive have the advantage when it comes to assertiveness. As in sports, some of us get pulled out of the net after the first or second try, and yet we can excel in a forward position, just naturally and not because of conditioning. Also people with chronic health problems are often accused of being passive simply because they are not fully functional, or 'nervous' because they have physical symtoms that show as shaking or tics, regardless of how confident (or bored) they feel on the inside. This is more like social Darwinism than any appreciation for assertiveness. The appearance of assertiveness is often something else. Any comments?

assertiveness insufficient for passive-aggressives - - Jun 15th 2007
I have found in dealing with some intransigently passive/aggressive individuals in my family that no amount of assertiveness stops the onslaught.  If I don't submit to my mother's excessive and unreasonable wishes, which I do not do, generally, she causes so many problems between me and others in our family group, all in the name of being concerned about me, that I simply cannot relax and enjoy myself.  Even though I am her only daughter--she has two sons in addition to me--I rarely visit her anymore because she is so very aggressive, manipulating others into punishing me by one form or another.  I do have a visit coming up at the family summer house at the other side of the US because my husband has a business trip nearby.  I haven't visited on her territory in three years.  My method of dealing with her over the last thirty years has culinated in putting distance between us.  My son is very much looking forward to being back at the ancestral home and environs, which are a lot of fun, as it is near the sea.  We all have fond memories of it and would like to be there in some regards.  I find that my mother dominates women and pacifies and flatters and manipulates men.  I really don't know how to be in her company and deal effectively with this.  Is it possible?  Or do I just have to be done with home, no matter what comforts and memories my children and I have there?  Any suggestions on how to handle a short visit with a bossy, dominating woman?  I think she is hystrionic in the way she deals with people.  How does one deal with that?

Grasshopper has a point - sparky - Jun 11th 2007
It's true that people who are passive aggressive are really the dominant figures of a relationship--the fact that you're the only one taking responsibility over the duties shows that his passivity is in control. 

Who's the doormat?  I'm not sure what I would do.  Maybe if you said,
"I think I'm being too duty- oriented and that seems to bother you.
I'll just leave things up to you for a while.  You seem to have a much more relaxed attitude than I do.  This would mean that things wouldn't get done the way you want them to & you'd have to let things go. 

assertiveness - fred - May 18th 2007

Assertiveness is largely a new trend about blaming yourself and as a result altering your own comfort zone, or changing the way you behave, in order to survive the bad behaviour of others. Thoughout most of the 20th century it was not an issue as conformity and maturity kept most workplaces, schools, businesses and areas of social interaction with a less aggressive mode of interaction. In fact the polite, entirely accomadating nature('at your service, sir')was the IDEAL we all sought, and were rewarded for.

The goverments failure to maintain an orderly society, particularly since the 1970's has produced among many things excuses and scapegoats one of which is blaming the type of personaility that it it was actually founded off. You are not assertive enough, or don;t stand up for yourself enough?People don't respect you for being a nice person is your fault? That is RIDICULOUS!!! They have the problem of being a product of poor leadership, not you. Your personailty founded the country,went off the war, opened doors for ladies, and still had time to listen politely to old people when they spoke.

Forget trying to correct the bad behaviour of others at the individual level. I can assure you as a system generally gets worse, your own efforts become less effective. Take an extreme of a corrupt workplace, or even 3rd world country as an example where only open aggression is effective.

If you want to be assertive in any way, assert your right to expect better ideals from your government for you and your kids RIGHT NOW

Editor's Note:  Fred is confusing assertiveness, which involves politely not allowing yourself to be stepped on with aggressiveness.  Fred also seems to be thinking that classifying your behavior into passive, assertive or aggressive categories involves self-blame, which isn't correct.  Being able to identify whether you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of by others is not self-blame - it is self empowerment! 

Fine Line - Randy - May 8th 2007
I believe that each of us will walk each of theses paths at some point in our lives. It is not possible to say that you will never become somewhat overly aggressive or somewhat overly passive in your life just because your Personality tends to move toward one or the other. I think that those who tend to dwell on one or the other, will begin to rely on their aggressive or passive behavior in an unhealthy way. Furthermore, I am a strong advocate of peace and so I believe in a passive lifestyle first and foremost. This is not to say that anyone should submit to aggressiveness when they should find themselves in a situation where they must defend, and where they must fight, to retain their own dignity and personal space. In effect this means that an assertive road is the one best traveled and that I agree with much of the above stated.  

I just ignore certain behaviors, is that bad? - - Apr 6th 2007

I don't let certain behaviors get to me. for example, when I'm driving I might honk at somebody who's driving like a maniac and I feel good because I let that person know how I feel about it. However, I don't want to spend my life honking at every maniac driver out there, it would be a never ending story, so I learned to ignore those type of behaviors. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Editor's Note: Not at all.  There is an enormous amount of aggressive behavior out there, and you need to pick your battles.  You're best off being assertive when you have your attacker's attention and you have a reasonable chance of being heard.  There isn't any communication possible from inside cars moving at speed, and any actual communication that could occur could be distracting and thus dangerous.  Not really the best scenario to try being assertive.  Better to save your assertive energy for situations where you're being bullied face to face.  

a real good book on assertivness - - Mar 30th 2007
a real good book on assertivness, is Pulling Your Own Strings by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

need help to stop myself crying - doormat has had enough - Mar 10th 2007
everytime my partner shouts at me,i feel tearful.sometimes i manage to stand up for myself,but i usually start an adult so i dont understand why i cry about stupid can i make myself stronger?

to all - 4:20 - Mar 4th 2007

>>You must be aggressive to get where you want to go, if not, then you might as well give up. The fact is, life is not easy as it seems and will not get easier if you become a "push over".>>

life is easy, if you have to be agressive and fight your just doing it wrong :) let your river flow naturally. there is a difference between compassion and a "push over". life is survival of the compassionate, this is evident in animal species who for example groom each other. even the strongest who are not compassionate and don't groom others will not be groomed and as a result die from the many diseases grooming gets rid of. dont be fooled by what you percieve as strength being all you need. many people that replied here sound like they need help and have sold their soul to be what they think is assertive in the work place. that is an illusion. grasping assertiveness through aggression is like grasping the moon from the water. wake up!! :)


I think in life one has to learn to be assertive. Everyone needs to to stand up for themselves ! Also sometimes it is important to be aggressive to attain a person's goals in life.

In your face! - Mark M - Feb 25th 2007

I find this assertiveness training very interesting. I have to argue that for someone to succeed, that someone must have an aggressive instinct. Its all about the survival of the fittest. You must be aggressive to get where you want to go, if not, then you might as well give up. The fact is, life is not easy as it seems and will not get easier if you become a "push over".

However, I also beleive in passiveness. I work in a place where a chain of command is stablished. Regardless how stupid or idiotic a task maybe, you must do it to the best of your ability. You can also use passiveness to your advantage. It pays a big dividend at the end, its called "sucking up" to your boss. This can give you better benefits outside of work, such as extra days for vacations or couple more bucks in your paycheck. For me, why go against the idea of someone aggressive (possibly your boss) when you can agree with them and be their pals. I know I'm selling myself for this, but I call it playing smart.

Assertiveness plays its role once that someone reaches a certain degree of satisfaction. Some people for example like the idea of just being a floor manager rather than the store manager. Some likes to work for someone instead of working for themselves.

Be Confident! - Shelley Houlberg - Feb 24th 2007
I understand that it might be difficult to be assertive in some situations, but believe me, if you dont take control and have confidence in yourself, people are going to walk all over you. In order to get what you want out of life, you need to give it what you got. Take small steps, starting off when you feel like something someone did or said was wrong, confront them. It doesnt make you look like a bad person when you do it the right way. The more you are assertive, the more you will feel comfortable doing it, and the happier you will be in life. It isnt what it is, its what you make of it. This is your life, so take charge and dont let anything stop you or get in your way! Good luck.

fighting issuehi - hemali - Feb 12th 2007
hi,my name is hemali .i can understnd what u might be goin yr confidence level bcoz if u dont have faith in u other people wil also put u down n secondly wat u want to convey to others wil come out in an agressive way n people wil think u wrong .why fighting al d time wen issues can be handled wid understanding y to spoil yr health fighting

tired of fighting - BRIDGET - Feb 10th 2007

I used to be a fighter  but for the past five years I feel that I've just let life slide over me. My children are now  22, 20 and 18 years old, it's as if I'm tired of fighting !

what is happening ? Am I getting old or what ? I feel out of touch with condifence and no longer in touch with cofidence. Peace is important but dignity is equally important and I'm currently in a situatiion where I my dignity is reduced by other more aggressive beings. Hell, I totally disagree with this because I know that I'm worth the fight - I'm feeling tired that's all. Can someone help me out of this marasme ?


Its all in how you say it! - - Jan 26th 2007
I have been dealing with assertiveness all of my life and finally i am realizing that its ok to say how we feel because everyone else always states how they are feeling and finally, it really just comes down to how you speak and the tone of voice used. I have been remembering this and practicing it when i am so afraid to speak up. Most people are only intimidated by someone who is stating their feelings in a very aggressive and loud manner but appreciate like i do, someone that is getting their point across more compassionately. I must say that so far this is really working for me and i am finding more respect that way!

analyze, not judge youself - grasshopper - Jan 20th 2007
I have a different sort of story to tell. My husband is a pretty passive person and also used to be passive about doing a lot of things, possibly due to some kind of deep-rooted fear. I am a very dutiful person but also have my share of fear of social situations and the world in general, and I am not a very confident person. For years, he used to shy away from a lot of things that my old-fashioned, sexist upbringing would see as his responsibilities, i.e. a man’s job, and I would have to "march forward" and step up to the jobs, ranging from asking for a table at the restaurant and making phone calls to organizing money matters, tax and trips. In reacting to my stress, feeling alone in the responsibilities, and over-compensating my diffidence, I probably looked darn aggressive. My husband is not a bad person; he is just a little more ‘scared’ inside than me. The unfortunate thing was that people observing us probably think he was dominated by me, which bothered me a lot. Instead of quietly getting upset, I should have stood up for myself and discussed our problems with him earlier. Passivity and aggression are not always straightforward traits to judge. I seem aggressive but couldn’t even be assertive enough speak out for myself. My husband seems passive but totally took advantage of my sense of duty.

- - Dec 6th 2006
I usually am very passive just so I can keep the peace. Doing this will eventually lead to people taking advantage of you. Even if you don't feel like standing up for yourself, force yourself to because you'll be happier later on. Also, you need to use the right words and tone to avoid aggresiveness and be assertive. Find the middle ground between passiveness and aggressiveness.

giving in equals peace - - Sep 25th 2006
Passive acquiesence is not peace. Peace can only exist where there is mutual agreement to respect each other. Ghandi did not give in to appease the British empire, that was slavery. He simply would not do what they demanded -- no name calling, no argument just peace-ful self-respect. As long as you confuse peace with slavery to another's demands, you will remain a prime target for being taken advantage of. It's all in the way you think and the words you use to frame your thoughts. Just say no, then shut up and sit down. Don't repeat yourself. Your poor wife won't know what to do next -- she'll be that confused.

- - Sep 24th 2006
I have been taking advantage of so many times and I believe it is slowing me down from getting what I want out of life. Even my wife takes advantage of me. Eveything has to be her way and give in because I enjoy my peace.

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