This article is written to help you develop your own assertiveness in support of your personal self-esteem, to recognize the right balance of behavior and how do deal with overly assertive people.

Assertiveness definition: an important communication skill exemplified by one’s ability to self-assuredly express an opinion.  Being able to express one’s self is fundamental to good self-esteem.

We all know at least one person who we label as assertive.  We see them as confident and self-assured.  They are able to communicate well and are often leaders whose opinion is sought by others.  Others, however, are so assertive that we avoid them like the plague.  When confronted these overly assertive people will tell you in no uncertain terms that they are just expressing their opinions…and that is their right.  We also know at least one other person who seems to fade into the background.  They have a difficult time expressing their opinions and feelings.  These non-assertive individuals may be boiling inside with unhappiness and conflict over not being able to speak their minds.

The double-edged sword of assertiveness

Both extremes of assertive behavior can make relationships at work, at home and with one’s own self-esteem very difficult.  The extremes are a common source of conflict and problems:

Overly assertive people (aggressive):

  • Tend not to be good team players
  • Dominate discussions
  • Stifle creativity, innovation and positive change
  • Create discord and disharmony in the workplace and at home
  • Will insist that their way is the “right way” even when wrong
  • May harbor a deep-seated anger about being unappreciated and/or misunderstood

People who are non-assertive (passive):

  • Tend not to be good team players
  • Do not contribute to discussions
  • Do not contribute to creativity, innovation and positive change
  • Do not act to quell discord or disharmony in the workplace or at home
  • May look the other way when things are being done wrong
  • May harbor a deep-seated anger about being unappreciated and/or unheard

Signs of being overly assertive

Some of the signs of a person being overly assertive include the following.  Be aware that it can be very difficult for an overly assertive individual to be self-aware that they are causing problems.

  • Speaking too loudly or literally shouting down others
  • Dominating a conversation
  • Interrupting others
  • Making personal attacks to “make a point”
  • A personal clue that you might be overly assertive may be that others avoid you

Signs of being insufficiently assertive

Some signs of a person being insufficiently assertive include the following.  Be aware that it can be difficult for an unassertive person to speak up even when asked.

  • Not offering their viewpoints
  • Going along with the crowd
  • Not speaking up even when you know you have something to offer
  • A personal clue that you may be insufficiently assertive is when you second-guess your failure to speak up

Dealing with the overly assertive individual

Dealing with overly assertive individuals in work and private relationships can be very trying.  Here are seven strategies and phrases for dealing with the overly assertive individual.

  1. First of all stay cool.  Don’t let yourself be dragged into their heated behavior.
  2. Try saying, “This is too hostile a situation for me.  Let me know when we can talk about this in a reasonable manner.”
  3. Consider saying, “I understand this is important I cannot deal with these heated emotions.  Maybe we can talk later when we are calmer.”
  4. “I understand your opinion but I do not agree.  We can continue a discussion when you are ready to at least listen to what I have to say.”
  5. “I don’t agree so there really isn’t any value in your continuing to try to argue with me.”
  6. “Is it your intention to make personal attacks on my character to try to make your point?  This behavior is unacceptable to me so I’m leaving now.”
  7. “There is a difference between making a point and making someone agree with you.  You’ve made your point but we do not agree.”

Communications are totally ineffective when one party is not listening.  An overly assertive person is often so committed to making their point that they are unable to listen to anything else that is said.  Until you can get them to acknowledge that they are not even listening to you, there is little value in continuing the “discussion.”  If you can get them to hear that you understand what they are saying you may have an opportunity to ask them to at least listen to what you have to say.  If they agree to listen make sure they did by asking them to repeat what you have said.  That’s a start.

Developing personal assertiveness