Dealing With Non-Assertive People

In an ideal world everyone would be assertive. Everyone would be confident enough to tell us exactly what they want, exactly how they feel and exactly what they need – but this isn’t the case.

We often think that some of us are passive and some of us are aggressive. The truth is we are all both.

So, why aren’t we all assertive? Simple, being assertive isn’t a natural position to be in. It’s a skill that needs to be learnt, developed and practiced. It’s a mindset that needs to be switched on when required.

We might think that someone is being assertive, but we need to be sure that is the truth and not just our perceptions fogging our view. We may easily confuse assertiveness with aggression.

In a world where everyone is unique and different it’s useful to know how to deal with other people that are passive and aggressive and how we can remain assertive.

Why Are People Not Assertive?

This could be for a number of different reasons.

  • Lack of confidence or self esteem
  • Past experiences where we were made to feel aggressive or passive
  • Our personality
  • The job that we do
  • Stress or other health issues

Dealing With Aggressive People

The thing to understand here is that the person demonstrating the behaviour probably isn’t aware they are being aggressive. The likelihood is that their response is an emotional one and as far as they are concerned their behaviour is justified.

It may also be that they have a deep rigid belief that this is the best way to communicate when they want something done.

Here are a few quick tips to deal with aggressive people:

Maintain self control. If you respond aggressively you fan the flames. Take a look at our post on Betaris Box that looks more at this.

You could also use a technique called Fogging. This is where your response to an aggressive approach isn’t a one that is argumentative. For example:

Other Person: ‘Where have you been, you’re an hour late. You’ve let me down again. You’re always letting me down. I’m getting incredibly annoyed with you’

Fogging Response: ‘Yes, I’m a bit later than expected and I can see why that has annoyed you’

Other Person: ‘You’re damn right I’m annoyed. I’ve been waiting for you for ages. You should think more about other people’

Fogging Response: ‘Yes, I was worried that I might have left you waiting.’

The point here is to not argue with the point but to agree with it. The other person is probably expecting an argumentative or defensive response then stands down when it doesn’t come.

Linked to the above, take a mental step back before responding. Be sure you are about to respond in the right way and not emotionally.

Show empathy for their situation. Use statements such as:

I understand why you would be frustrated by that’, or

‘I understand why you would feel angry by this’.

But, avoid ‘I understand how you feel’. Because, do you really?

Dealing With Passive People

Similar to aggressive people, it’s good to understand why people are passive. This is usually linked to past experience or confidence.

Here are some tips for dealing with passive people:

Show you are interested in what they have to say. The trick is to make them feel more confident about speaking. If you show you are genuinely interested then they will want to continue talking. If you don’t you give them a reason to stop.

Think about your body language. Is it open and inviting? Does it show you are interested? On the same point, show you are listening.

Encourage them into the conversation. Ask open questions and invite them in. Allow them to use their voice in the space you are in. Make then feel like it’s OK to talk. Thank them for their input, let them see that it is valued.

Don’t get frustrated. If you do don’t show it. You need to be patient.

If you would like to find out more about dealing with passive and aggressive behaviours or becoming more assertive yourself, then why not attend an Assertiveness Skills training course. Look no further that our training and development partner Revolution Learning and Development. Take a look at their Assertiveness Skills Training Courses here.


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