When to be Assertive | Stop getting walked on

In my childhood and early 20’s I often fell under the label of being a “nice guy”. I hated it. This was a nice way of saying one had nice character traits but could also mean one was a pushover. It is true that we need to be chivalrous, courteous, respectful and gentleman. But it is not true that we have to lay down our convictions, lay down what we stand for, and not speak up when we know we should.

Nice guys do not have to be doormats.

Watch the video below and tell me what you think? Have you ever been in this position before? What did you do? How did you feel?

When I first watched this I thought it was hilarious. I watched it over and over again. Office Space was the movie to quote over and over again. But as I continued to watch, it dawned on me that I was him. I knew I hated being called a “nice guy” but I wasn’t sure what I was doing that got me that label. I was confused because in my mind I was just being a gentleman. If my boss asked me to cancel my plans and stay late I’d sometimes think I was doing it out of loyalty. As I watched this clip and started to see myself in his place it all started to take shape and make sense. I was being a gentleman but I was also being a pushover at times. These two things are different from each other and it’s important to see that. A friend of mine, Paul, commented that, “We can’t confuse honesty, integrity and meekness as weak or limp. You can be a nice guy and not be a doormat.”

Being assertive isn’t the same as being abrasive or too aggressive. Having the confidence to stand up for what’s right isn’t the same as being arrogant.

I wanted to be manly without being arrogant and rude. When we get walked on we make excuses for why we couldn’t or shouldn’t be assertive. But by doing this we then hold in that anger and the result is uncontrolled rage. We then take it out on someone else, an innocent bystander, or something that has dollar value.

This scene is hilarious! All that built up anger from the office environment…but what did it get them? Smashing that printer sure looks fun but I think a result they’d prefer would be something along the lines of a better work place.

If we want to improve we have to be able to identify situations where we have been walked on.

In this article I’m going to offer a few examples of When to be Assertive. Later in another article we’ll discuss How to be Assertive. But if you’re looking for some answers right now Brett Mckay over at Art of Manliness offers a great piece here.

When to be Assertive:

Whenever you feel like you’ve just been walked on.

This should be self-explanatory. That feeling you get where you’re angry at someone who just walked over you but you hold it in because you’re afraid of conflict. There’s a right way to resolve situations like this. Not with aggression or being rude, but in a respectful manner.

Pressed for Time

You’re running around town to finish up a shopping list your wife gave you and a friend unexpectedly calls needing you to be a listening ear because he doesn’t like his boss. If it isn’t an emergency they need to wait. Don’t let them walk over your schedule and your loved ones.

You don’t know how to do something you’re being asked to do.

Your boss gives you some instructions and you act like you can do it. Don’t do that. Be honest and say you need further guidance or instruction. This is far better then doing it wrong.

Your beliefs or convictions are being challenged.

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” -Malcolm X

You know you need to speak up but you don’t. You talk yourself out of it by saying you don’t want to be rude. If you’re being challenged that means you’re supposed to speak up. You need to speak up.

At the Office

You have weekend plans with your family, friends or girlfriend, and it’s Friday afternoon. You need to leave at 4pm sharp and your boss comes strolling around the corner at 350. He dumps a ton of work on you…..this is when you need to be assertive in a respectful way.

An abusive boss will continue to abuse their power until you assert yourself and stand up to it. If they’re a disorganized boss then you can help by letting him or her know ahead of time about your weekend plans and the importance you leave on time.

A parent, family, relative or friend asks for something.

Your brother in law spent his last dime on his friends bachelor party and now he needs to borrow money from you to pay his rent. Don’t help his irresponsibility by lending him money. Teach him to budget and be responsible.


Bullies are in school grounds, in the workplace, at home, and all around us. They can be male or female; young or old. Bullying is preying on those who you perceive to be weaker than you. It can come in the form of physical, verbal, emotional, or cyber abuse. It can be direct or indirect. Bullying is not being assertive. If you see bullying happen – Be Assertive.

“True courage is cool and calm. The bravest of men have the least of a brutal, bullying insolence, and in the very time of danger are found the most serene and free.” – Lord Shaftesbury

These are just a few. In the comments below feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. I’m sure there are a few funny stories we can all share a laugh over.

be assertive

Featured image by http://dribbble.com/TinmanCreative


  1. Hey John,

    We can’t confuse honestly, integrity and meekness as weak or limp. You can be a nice guy and not be a doormat. When Todd and I were at the HA, Dave Hasz explained meekness as a felt covered brick. It might look soft and it might feel soft, but if you get hit by it, you’ll realize how strong it really is.

  2. There’s definitely politeness and inappropriate deference.

    • Some try to avoid conflict like it’s the plague that they mistake this for politeness. Wisdom in handling these situations comes both from experience and others. But if we never try we’ll always be running.

  3. That first video is really powerful. It did seem very funny at first, but the morei thought about it the more it dawned on me how people in authority manipulate their peon underlings.

    As a newer employee it is almost impossible to resist that type of authority. I recall that as a more experienced employee, I would deflect that type of pressure with a comment like, “Sorry,l I already have plans for the weekend.” If the boss would try to twist my arm, I would just stick to my guns and give bland answers like, “We’ve had this planned for a long time and its not possible to change it now.”

    • You’re right. As a new employee it’s definitely tough, and if one has a hard time keeping a job it can be just as tough. Sometimes wisdom is needed because each circumstance is different. What to watch out for is the mindset and habit of letting others walk over you. I like how you handled it. It’s similar to what I learned to do.

  4. Love it. Great thoughts. And I appreciate the practical examples.

  5. Look at all you smart fellas 🙂 This is perfect, practical advice for us ladies, too! Will be passing this on to the boyfriend who could use a little assertive injection. Thanks!

    • Thanks Christen! I think all of us men have differeant areas in this that we can grow in. It also helps to have positive encouragement from the ladies in our lives.

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