How to Be Assertive and Quit Being a Pushover

Few things will have a greater impact on a man’s life than learning how to be assertive and take a stand for himself, his needs, and his desires.

But in a society designed to mass-produce pathological pushovers, this is a journey easier talked about than taken.

The modern world has brainwashed men into believing that assertiveness is the same thing as aggression or even toxic masculinity. Telling them to sit down, be quiet, and fall in line–or else.

And you don’t have to look far to see the soul-wrecking effect of this conditioning.

“Nice Guys” (aka pushovers), limp through life thinking that they’re doing the right thing.

They say “yes,” to every favor and request. Suppress their anger and frustration to avoid rocking the boat and creating conflict. And settle for so much less than they desire under the guise of being “grateful” for what they have. They believe that if no one is upset with me then they must love me.

All because this is what they’re “supposed” to do.

We’ve worked with thousands of clients struggling with these patterns and behaviors. And the stories they told us were always the same.

Their wife or girlfriend left them or cheated on them with another man because they were a pushover.

Their “friends” and family used and manipulated them because they didn’t know how to set boundaries and say “no.”

After years of excelling in their careers, they were looked over by their boss while their more assertive (but less skilled) co-workers took the raises, promotions, and perks that should have been theirs.

What they failed to understand–and what we helped them realize–is that you and only you are responsible for the outcomes in your life.

If you don’t assert your value as a man and take a stand for your needs, your desires, and your dreams, no one will.

Despite what you were told by your friends, family, or society, it is possible to be assertive and kind. To get your needs met without stepping over other people to do it. To stand up to other people in a way that leads to win-win outcomes and garner the respect of those around you.

And in today’s article, I’m going to teach you the same lessons we’ve taught to thousands of men in your shoes over the years.

If you’ll put them into practice, I promise, you’ll experience a dramatic improvement in your relationships, career, and sense of personal power.

Let’s dive in.

The Pathology of the Pushover: Why Evolution Hates “Nice Guys”

Before we dive into the tactical tools for becoming a more assertive man, I want to share a powerful concept to explain why being a pushover is so damaging to a man’s quality of life:

Evolutionary signaling.

Despite our modern amenities and technology, every human on the planet is walking around with a brain that runs off of 200,000-year-old operating system.

Whether we realize it or not, our decisions and desires are all shaped by subconscious programming from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

At the most basic level, we’re running every person we meet, every opportunity we have, and every situation we face through a simple question:

Will they help or hurt the tribe?

In hunter-gatherer times, the tendencies we now associate with pushovers didn’t simply “hurt” the tribe. They got it killed.

Even though the stakes are far less dire in modern times, our ancient brains are still filtering our decisions through this lens.

Through their behavior, nice guys signal to the “tribe” (aka the people in their lives) that they can’t be trusted.

They’re deemed too weak to protect and provide. And as a result, too weak to procreate–because on a biological level women want to ensure that their partner gives them and their children the best chance of survival.

Now there’s an important caveat here…

These things aren’t necessarily true. But through their behaviors, pushovers signal to others that this is true and repels them.

This is why so many “Nice Guys” struggle.

Internally, they know their value and worth and bring a lot to the table. But because of a few bad habits, their external behaviors signal something entirely different.

In fact, many of the clients who come to me for help with this challenge are some of the highest quality men you’ll meet.

They’re smart, hard-working, kind, and have a lot to offer inside of their professional and romantic lives.

The challenge they face–and the challenge you may be facing yourself–is to bring their external actions into alignment with their internal reality.

What Does It Mean to Be Assertive?

Before we can answer all the important questions on how to be assertive, we first need to dispel any self-sabotaging myths you may believe and ask…

What does it mean to be assertive in the first place?

Simply put, being assertive is the ability to stand up for yourself, your needs, and your desires, while still respecting the needs and desires of others. It’s about owning your inherent worth, protecting your values, and acting in alignment with your vision. Even if it requires uncomfortable conversations, confrontation, or disappointing other people (and it will).

Being assertive is about taking complete and total ownership of your life and accepting that no one is coming to save you.

Instead of letting other people use you as a doormat, cross your boundaries, and disrespect what you want out of your own life…

You speak your mind, own your desires, and take a stand for what you believe and want. Because if you don’t, no one will.

Being Assertive vs Being Aggressive

aggressive man isn't assertive

In a society where men are trained to be pathological people-pleasers, most of us mistake assertiveness for aggression.

We think being assertive means bulldozing those around you to get what you want. However, as I’ll reveal throughout this article, nothing could be further from the truth.

There is a time and place for aggression–typically in physical competition or life-threatening situations, which is extremely rare today vs in the past.

But in day-to-day interactions, aggression will lead to resentment, hostility, and failure.

You signal to the tribe that you can’t be trusted to protect or bring value to the tribe because the only “tribe” you care about is yourself.

Assertiveness, on the other hand, is about the union of confidence in yourself and your value and respect for the value of others.

It’s about striving for a win-win. Knowing how to get your needs met while being empathetic to the needs of others.

You aren’t trying to win at all costs. But you aren’t content with losing either.

Both passive and aggressive men see other people as the cause of every problem in their life. The only difference is how they respond to that problem. Passive men allow resentment and anger to fester. Aggressive men allow it to explode.

The assertive man understands that he is the only one who is responsible for the problems in his life. And if something isn’t working, it’s up to him to take a stand and find the solution.

What Does Assertiveness Look Like: Examples of Assertiveness in Action

Now that you have a perfunctory understanding of how we define assertiveness in a broad context, the next question becomes…

What does it mean to be assertive in the real world?

What does it actually look like to walk the fine line between spineless acquiescence and plain rudeness?

Here are a few examples to make this more concrete:

1. Being Assertive in Your Work and Career

Situation: Your boss asks you to work on a Saturday–again–to complete a last-minute project that someone else on the team should have done earlier in the week.

Pushover Response: Cancel your plans. Ignore the fact that your boss’s request is unfair and respond: “Of course! Anything for the team.”

Aggressive Response: “Why are you so unreasonable? Jake from Accounting should have done that on Thursday! It’s not my fault the rest of the team can’t pull their weight. Find someone else to do it.”

Assertive Response: “I can’t do that. I’ve already made plans with my family and I completed my portion of that project on Thursday. In the future, please give me a three-day notice if you need me to work on the weekend.”

2. Being Assertive In Relationships

Situation: Your friends invite you out for a guys’ night but you don’t think your wife or girlfriend will be happy about you spending the evening away.

Pushover Response: Don’t even mention the invitation. Simply allow the resentment to boil, and start stupid arguments about toilet seats, open cabinet doors, and uncapped toothpaste.

Aggressive Response: You tell your partner that you’re going out. She complains that she hasn’t seen you all week because you’ve been preoccupied with work.

You explode stating, “Why do you always do this? I work my ass off to keep you happy and you don’t even want me to have one night out with my friends. I’m going out tonight. End of story.”

Assertive Response: You tell your partner that you’re going out. She complains that she hasn’t seen you all week because you’ve been so wrapped up in your work.

You respond, “I know I’ve been busy, but I really need some time with the guys. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to finish up my day early tomorrow so we can go out for an adventure in the city.”

I’ve found that this is one of the areas men struggle with the most.

When you love your partner and want to make her happy, it’s easy to let your own needs and boundaries slip, thinking that it’s just “part of being in a relationship.”

But the reality is, women crave a man who is assertive and willing to stand up for himself. Because it signals to her that he’s the type of man she can trust which ultimately makes her feel safe.

If you’re in a relationship and you know that you could experience deeper levels of fulfillment, connection, and trust with your partner by becoming more assertive, I invite you to schedule a quick call with my team to see if we can help.

3. Being Assertive Without Being Rude

Situation: You’re standing in line at the store and someone cuts in front of you.

Pushover Response: Ignore it–even though you’re running late and have been in line for 10-minutes–then step back and to make sure they have plenty of space to disrespect you.

Aggressive Response: Grab their shoulder and get in their face, saying, “Hey buddy! What do you think you’re doing? The line is back there. Are you trying to start something?”

Assertive Response: Politely tap them on the shoulder and calmly state, “Excuse me. You just cut in front of me. The line starts back there.”

The Benefits of Being An Assertive Man

The benefits of being assertive might seem straightforward.

But the challenge when adopting any new behavior or trait is the sheer amount of reconditioning required to make it stick.

Becoming an assertive man isn’t easy. It isn’t always pleasant. And it doesn’t happen overnight.

So before we go any further, I want to explain why it’s so important.

My hope is that doing so will give you the internal drive and motivation to put in the work and persist through the growing pains that will arise throughout your journey.

1. Being Assertive Reduces Stress

We’ve all read the headlines. Chronic stress is linked to all six of the major causes of death. Nearly 77% of the population experiences stress-related health problems. And since the pandemic struck, stress levels have risen to an all-time high.

But what you may not know is that assertiveness has been shown to dramatically lower the stress we experience.

Considering the implications of developing this trait, it’s fair to wonder how being assertive can help you reduce stress? After all, you’ll likely initiate more conflicts and experience a sharp increase in the number of uncomfortable conversations you have.

But the answer is simple.

Being assertive puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life. Instead of suppressing what you really want or how you feel, you make a habit of prioritizing your own needs and well-being.

You say “no” to things that drain your energy and distract you from what you want. You speak up when you disagree with someone instead of mentally rehearsing the interaction you ‘should’ have had all night. And you stop giving others control of your emotional states.

The acute stress of reinforcing a boundary, disappointing a spouse, or saying “no” to a friend weighs ounces. The chronic stress and depression caused by repression, resentment, and an un-lived life weigh tons.

2. Less Resentment & Better Relationships

In the late 90s, marriage researchers at the Gottman Institute (who have the infamous ability to predict divorce with 92% accuracy), discovered something surprising.

For love to last, the ideal ratio of positive to negative interactions–i.e. connection to conflict–is 5:1. But that’s not what’s surprising.

What raises eyebrows is their finding that relationships with too many positive interactions rarely stood the test of time.

The explanation?

Healthy conflict is an unavoidable part of human relationships–platonic or romantic. And in marriages where spouses avoid conflict to keep their partner happy, resentment and contempt are all but inevitable.

When one person fails to voice their feelings or disagreements with another, they are unintentionally robbing the other person of the opportunity to resolve the issue.

  • You don’t set a boundary at work so your boss assumes you’re content to take on projects outside of your job description.
  • You don’t express your sexual desires to your wife, so she assumes that those sexual desires don’t exist.
  • You don’t let your waiter know that you ordered the steak, not the salmon, so they assume you’re happy with your order.

Instead of responding to your truth, the other party is forced to respond to their assumption. And over time, you begin to resent them for crimes they didn’t know they committed.

However, when you begin to practice assertive communication, the ambiguity and resentment disappear. Other people know your needs, thoughts, and boundaries (because you’ve communicated them).

And even though they might disagree or have conflicting desires, you’re now able to negotiate compromise from a place of mutual respect and understanding.

3. Greater Confidence and Self Worth

The quality of your life is directly proportional to the levels of self-worth and self-trust you experience inside of your own existence.

The men who live fully and die empty are the men who know their value and trust that when something in their life isn’t working, they have the power to fix it.

But most men never experience such a life. Instead, they die a slow spiritual death by a thousand cuts.

  • They say “yes” when they want to say “no.” Frittering away their precious time on events, activities, and obligations they never wanted in the first place.
  • They allow other people to violate their boundaries again and again and again. Placing the comfort of friends and strangers above their own well-being and personal rights.
  • They settle for less than they want and deserve to avoid “rocking the boat.” Allowing their dreams and desires to slowly atrophy until they cease to exist altogether.

And every time they do this, they reinforce an identity that says, “My needs don’t matter. My dreams don’t matter. My life doesn’t matter.”

By learning how to be assertive, however, you flip this script unlocking greater levels of confidence and reclaiming sovereignty of your own life.

If there’s a problem, you fix it.

If you do something, it’s because you want to.

And if you’re living below the level you know you’re capable of, you step up to the plate to change it.

The “Shortcut” for Becoming an Assertive Man

Most men have been conditioned to be pushovers for decades. And undoing that conditioning takes time and practice.

Luckily, there’s a shortcut.

After ten years, thousands of successful clients, and countless hours, I’ve created the premier coaching experience on the planet for men looking to become more assertive, reclaim their power, and step up as the strong grounded men they know they have the potential to be.

Not only will you get access to some of the most advanced training for men in the modern world today, but you’ll get plugged into a tribe of other likeminded men who are on the same journey as you.

Thousands of men have taken the journey to becoming their strongest selves and reaching the next level of growth, power, and fulfillment. Will you be next?

YES! I’m ready for the next level.

The Core Traits of Assertive People

With a firm understanding of what it means to be assertive, the benefits of assertiveness, and how this trait is distinct from aggressiveness, it’s time to explore the traits and behaviors you can begin developing today to quit being a pushover and become a more assertive man.

1. They Know Their Worth

All assertive behavior stems from one core belief:

“I am the most important person in my life.”

This is not narcissistic or egotistical. It’s an objective fact.

You are the most important person in your own life. Not your parents, not your boss, not your partner, and not your kids. If you aren’t proactively meeting your own needs and prioritizing your own well-being no one will.

Like the pilot says, put on your own oxygen mask first and never forget that to be of service to the world, you must be able to serve. And that capacity is created, first and foremost, by a commitment to yourself.

2. They Set Firm Boundaries

The most important practice for becoming more assertive is to have clear boundaries and core anchors–and to protect them with your life.

Boundaries are about getting your needs met and creating conditions for yourself where you’re able to feel and perform at your best.

For example:

  • Going to bed at a specific time–so you can wake up rested and fully recovered–and refusing to go out to social gatherings before that time.
  • Refusing to engage in conversations where someone is yelling or swearing at you
  • Asking your partner to respect your privacy and leave your personal journals untouched
  • Requiring space in a relationship and setting aside a day each week that’s exclusively for you

3. They Say No (And Mean It)

If you don’t want to do something, learn how to politely and respectfully say “No” and follow through on your response.

Doing things we don’t enjoy doing is an inescapable part of life.

But there’s a fine line between necessary obligations (like attending funerals, supporting a spouse through an emotional time, or working overtime to get out of debt) and unnecessary obligations.

If you find yourself constantly saying “yes” to social gatherings that drain your energy, extending unrequited favors to friends and acquaintances, or taking on another pet project for your boss (despite your over flowing calendar), learn how to say no.

Even though you’ll have to overcome the inertia of your “Yes man” tendencies, the more you learn to protect your time and energy, the more liberated you’ll feel.

As a bonus? When you do say “yes” it will be because you truly want to do something. And that is the state from which all truly memorable nights and meaningful projects flow.

4. They Don’t Apologize for Their Needs

There is a time and a place for apologies. But most men are incessant apologizers.

Someone bumps into you at the store. “I’m sorry for existing and taking up space while you walk around with your face in your phone.”

Your client doesn’t pay you on time. “I’m sorry for following up and asking you to give me the money you promised me for my hard work.”

The expensive dinner you paid for is undercooked and you ask the waiter to fix it? “I’m sorry that I’m paying you $70 for this plate of frigid meat and want to avoid food poisoning.”

Again, the point here isn’t to encourage rudeness or imply that apologies or explanations for our behavior are never warranted. But rather to make it clear that you don’t owe anyone an apology for prioritizing yourself, standing up for yourself and defending your boundaries.

The bottom line?

Stop apologizing for making requests, expressing dissatisfaction, or disappointing someone (when you’ve done nothing wrong). Save your “sorries” for when you have done something wrong and take a stand for your needs.

5. They Carry Themselves With Strong Body Language

In a life-or-death situation, who do you want on your team?

The man who slumps his shoulders, looks at the floor when speaking, breathing shallowly, and moving in a hurried and timid way?

Or the man who stands tall, takes up space, makes eye contact when speaking, and moves through what he’s doing calmly and assertively?

The answer is obvious.

Strong body language literally changes your body and brain, increasing testosterone, boosting your mood, and reducing negativity. And the impact it has on those around you is similar.

If you want to put this into practice, the protocol is simple.

Set a timer to go off throughout the day and pay attention to your body language.

Are you hunched over your laptop? Or sitting up straight with your chin high while you work?

Are you nervously glancing around the room when speaking? Or making firm eye contact and making your points confidently and directly?

Train your body to be more assertive and your mind will follow.

How to Be Assertive In a Relationship

1. You Are a Sexual Being. So Own It.

Being more assertive with your sexual desires is one of the fastest and most consistent ways to improve the quality of your relationships.

Most “Nice Guys” act like their partner is doing them a favor every time she sleeps with him. But the truth is, women want sex too.

They want to be ravished by the man they love. They want to feel desired. They want to feel the full emotional force of their partner rather than settling for the weak and blase “quickie” most men offer.

What does this look like in practice?

It’s actually pretty simple. Make your desires known and make no apology for them.

Tell your partner exactly what you want. Tell her that you desire her. Talk dirty to her. Share your fantasies (even if you know they’ll only ever be fantasies).

Stop apologizing for having a penis and treating sex like it’s a gift you receive. It’s a source of pleasure and connection for her too… but only when she’s with a man who owns his desires and owns his desire for her unapologetically.

2. Escape the “Jedi Trap”.

One of the most insidious ways that both aggression and passivity sabotage relationships is through something I call “The Jedi Trap.”

Where you assume that your partner should know what you’re thinking even though you haven’t expressed your desire or dissatisfaction.

  • She spends $200 on a new dress and you assume that she knows how concerned you are about your finances
  • She doesn’t respond to a message for three hours while she’s out with friends and you expect her to read your mind and know that you were worried about her
  • She puts on her favorite show–again–even though you want to watch the new episode of your favorite new show and you assume she’s being selfish

The problem is… she can’t read your mind! (Just like you can’t read hers).

The only way to resolve conflict is to express your truth and take ownership for your own experience. If you clearly communicate what you want or why you’re upset, you’re giving her the chance to take a different action.

If you don’t, you simply breed resentment and turn your biggest ally into public enemy #1.

3. There IS an “I” In Team

One of the hallmarks of assertive communication is personal responsibility. Specifically, through the use of “I/Me” statements.

Instead of using “You” statements during conflict or when making a request:

  • You made me feel this way.
  • You are so inconsiderate.
  • You should have done that already.

To be more assertive in your communication, flip the tables and own your emotions and experience.

  • When you said this, I felt this way.
  • When you did this, it made me think that you don’t respect me.
  • I expected this to be done, it makes me feel de valued.

This shift may seem subtle. But it radically alters the tone of the conversation and opens the doors to a productive conversation.

Communication that was accusatory and derogatory–you are this way because this thing happened–can now create the opportunity for growth and connection.

“I expected/experienced this when this thing happened, let’s talk about it.”

How to Be Assertive at Work

1. Lead Yourself First

There’s an old saying, “If you want to lead others, lead yourself first.”

In the context of our conversation, this implication is profound.

Before you try to act more assertive with your boss, coworkers, or employees, start by first being more assertive with yourself.

Are you consistently completing projects on time and before the agreed-upon deadlines? Are you holding yourself accountable for producing results in your position? Are you showing up to your work the same way that you expect others to show up to theirs?

If not, then start your journey here. Elevate your own standards and way of being inside of your career before making demands of others.

2. Express Your Opinions

On my own journey growing Knowledge for Men to the levels of success it enjoys today, I found that my most valuable team members were often the least agreeable.

Instead of taking my word as gospel or blindly agreeing to every half-baked idea or a new project I brought to them–they shared their opinions freely.

  • If they thought something wouldn’t work, they said so and explained why.
  • If they saw a problem in the business they called it out.
  • If they didn’t approve of my leadership style, they shared their grievances.

This didn’t mean that I took action on everything they shared. But more often than not, it gave me a strategic opportunity to reevaluate the company’s trajectory, processes, and results.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or employee, if you want to bring more value to your organization, learn to speak up and express your opinions and add more value.

Because chances are, if you see a problem or disagree with a decision, so do other people in your team. The only difference is that you will actually be willing to do something about it.

3. Clarify Expectations

Without clear expectations, failure is inevitable.

Whenever you’re experiencing an interpersonal problem in your career, chances are, the source of the problem can be traced back to unmet and unspoken expectations.

Whether you feel underpaid, worry that you’re underperforming, or feel stuck in a role with limited growth opportunities, step back and ask yourself:

“Have I made my expectations clear and asked for clear expectations from the people I’m accountable to?”

If not, make the assertive move and ask for clarity.

The best-case scenario is that the issue is immediately resolved. The worst-case scenario is that you uncover conflicting expectations and have the opportunity to re-examine your commitments.

Parting Thoughts from a Reformed Pushover

Becoming an assertive man, more respectable and attractive man doesn’t happen overnight.

And it doesn’t happen without a few bumps and bruises along the way.

In my own journey to navigate the middle ground between passivity and aggression, I strayed to both extremes on numerous occasions.

I made mistakes and you will too.

However, if you’d like to avoid the mistakes most men make and get the raw, no-nonsense coaching, training, and group accountability you need to become an assertive and attractive man faster, then I’d like to invite you to apply for our premier coaching program for men. 

There are no silver bullets for becoming the man you want to be. But there are shortcuts.

And getting access to my coaching program is one of the best damn shortcuts on the planet.

Click here to learn more and see if you qualify.

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