How to be assertive without being rude

Often, the line between being assertive and being rude is quite fuzzy and open to interpretation.

Assertiveness, by definition, is a communication skill that allows a person to clearly express their thoughts and feelings directly and appropriately, while still managing the thoughts and feelings of others around you.


It is important that everybody learns how to be effectively assertive while being mindful of others at the same time, to avoid coming across as rude.

Understanding the Difference between Rudeness and Assertiveness

In order to ensure you’re not taken as rude by others it’s important to understand exactly what rude looks like.The main characteristic of a rude person is a failure to have respect for another person, their views, beliefs and feelings. Sometimes rudeness can be perceived by others as being a bully, sarcastic or angry, and often can include hollering, offensive language, physical contact and threats.

Assertiveness on the other hand, is based on mutual respect, which is necessary to effectively communicate, so you can get what you want without overstepping or offending anyone.

In order to be assertive it involves using all learned communication skills, such as words, actions, body language, vocal intonation, and facial expressions, if you wish to be effective.

When trying to be assertive it is imperative to always be mindful of how your words and intentions are affecting others, and always be respectful of them.

Set Boundaries

It is important for every individual to set and adhere to personal boundaries they have set for themselves. Once you’ve established your boundaries you’ll know what is considered acceptable, and what is within the realm of comfortable, preventing you from having to assess and make these decisions in the heat of the moment.

Never be ashamed or embarrassed to tell others how you feel or what it is you need from the situation. Do so in a careful, respectable manner, so you are heard and understood.

Often it’s thought that being direct and straightforward is rude, but this is not the case at all, and failure to do so may give others the impression you are passive or easy to manipulate. You cannot expect others to know what you need or want unless you clearly convey this.

The Right Time, The Right Place

Sometimes being assertive is a necessary aspect of negotiation or conflict resolution, but a large part of being effective at this is choosing the appropriate time and place to address the situation.

First of all, always approach it in the right frame of mind, if you are stressed or upset you are likely to feel overwhelmed, and out of control, and this can influence the tone of the conversation.

Once you’re in the right frame of mind, make sure you are approaching the situation at an appropriate time, and choose your venue carefully. For example, it is probably not wise to discuss your salary with your boss at a company picnic, a private meeting with superiors during work time is likely more suitable.

Assertiveness while also being polite, is essential in a job interview. Before entering a situation, think first about your expectations, the desired results and any concessions you are willing to make, so you can be assertive, yet flexible about the issue at hand, but walk away feeling as though you got what you wanted.

Attic Recruitment are a central London boutique recruitment consultancy specialising in the selection of secretarial and executive PA recruitment.

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