How to Be Assertive Without Being Rude

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Assertiveness is a trait that is usually associated to Westerners. In other parts of the world, say, the East, this trait can be misunderstood as being abrasive, or even rude. It can be a cultural thing, or it can be a personality issue.

But no one should be a doormat just because one doesn’t want to risk offending others!

I am a non-confrontational person, and I am afraid this comes across lacking assertiveness, which is true to a certain degree. However, there are situations when being assertive is necessary.

On the other hand, there is a difference between assertiveness and rudeness (and/or abrasiveness).

In this article, let’s look at how to be assertive, thus avoid being a doormat, and yet not be rude.

Know your core principles.

Knowing who you are and what you believe in is essential in being able to assert yourself when others try to wear you down or bully you. If you yourself are not sure about your core principles, then how can you let others know what you stand for?

If, even right now, you cannot give answers as to what your core principles are, ask yourself some questions.

  • What matters most to me?
  • If I had several choices at the moment, which one would I instinctively choose?
  • What are the best moments of my life that I can think of off the top of my head?
  • What would I do if I knew I would die tomorrow?

Set clear boundaries.

Knowing your core principles clearly will lead to setting boundaries.

What are boundaries?

Simply put, boundaries are “rules” which you follow in life, saying what you will or won’t allow.

If you have difficulty saying no, override your needs to please others, or are bothered by someone who is demanding, controlling, criticizing, pushy, abusive, invasive, pleading, or even smothering you with kindness, it’s your responsibility to speak up. – Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

By setting boundaries, you let others know what you will tolerate and what you won’t. This can be done verbally or through actions. It is best, however, to implement your boundaries so that other people fully understand them.

how to be assertive


For example, if you tell your superior that you don’t appreciate how he shouts at you in public and berates you for mistakes that you didn’t do, and that you will file an HR report if he doesn’t stop, then follow up with an action.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

A critical element in being assertive and yet not being rude is to have a degree of understanding of the other party.

While you may not fully grasp what the other person’s situation is, the idea of being kind because you never know what he is going through always applies. Always.

Being assertive does not mean you have to shout your way to getting your point across. It doesn’t mean being condescending, insulting, or defensive. Choose your words carefully. Think before you speak. Watch your body language.

It boils down to one thing: being able to let other people know what you feel and think and that you stand by that.


It may be daunting to think you can stand up to your intimidating boss, your controlling mother, or your manipulative friends, but you can do it by taking small steps. Believe in yourself, and you’ll get there.

Another useful read: 6 Small Steps to Big Benefits for Self Improvement

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