Assertive Versus Rude

assertive

When speaking with someone, where is the line drawn between being assertive and being rude? This is a question that I often face, as I like to be neither assertive or rude.

I’m not saying that I allow myself to be walked on, but I’d rather not give the impression that I’m being rude. Since assertiveness often sounds rude, I try to avoid being that way as well, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

This post is inspired by a woman I was standing behind in line yesterday at a local store. The cashier greeted her, but received no response. Instead, immediately upon placing her items on the conveyer belt, the customer sternly told the cashier, “Double bag those.” This she said twice, both in a cold manner. Was she being assertive or rude?

Then she went on to say, once the final item was rung up, “I need a receipt.” She was straightforward, but her tone was harsh. After placing everything in her cart, she left. End of story.

As I watched and listened to this woman, I tried to understand her. Was she speaking in such a demanding tone because of where she grew up? There are some places in this country that I’ve been to, where one must be assertive in order to have their needs met. So if that was the case, I understand. To her, perhaps she was simply being assertive.  Maybe she’s one of the nicest people around.

Or, was she being rude? Why did she not respond to the cashier when she was greeted? Or, say “thank you” after she received the receipt that she demanded to be given? Maybe she was just having a bad day. We all have those, so if that was the case, then I understand that as well.

However even on a bad day, a person can and should still be kind to others. Not all things need to be shared. A bad mood is one of them.

I’ll admit that there are times when assertiveness is necessary; at work, with children, for a cause that one is passionate about, etc. However, how does a person go about being assertive without sounding rude? In my opinion, it’s all about how we use our words. There are ways to say things and ways not to.

We can be assertive without being rude, but there’s a fine line there. Where do you draw the line?


“Typing my heart out” for Nano Poblano/NaBloPoMo.

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32 Responses to Assertive Versus Rude

  1. From my perspective, she was being rude. I think it’s cool that you try to be understanding of her! My opinion is that we should always greet people when they greet us, and it is all in the tone of voice we use. If you say things like something is owed to you, you are being rude. If you say things like it is an option for the person to respond, you are being assertive. That is just my opinion though! Thought provoking post. 🙂

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  2. The real me says:

    I think she was being rude too. Manners cost nothing and even if she was having a bad day I’m pretty sure that was no fault of the cashiers. I believe that you can be assertive and still use good manners

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    • mewhoami says:

      It was certainly not the fault of the cashier. The cashier didn’t say a word, minus the initial greeting and an “ok”. I think she picked up on the woman’s mood and was trying to avoid making her more upset. Yes, good manners. That’s the key.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. maryam191 says:

    You can’t really identify the line at the spot. It’s kind of a much tricky situation.

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  4. Wow. You are really good…taking time to try and understand someone’s motivation. That’s something I try and do but I’m not very good at it most times. I’m also not good at the line between assertive and rude….I try very hard to be nice, but I always seem to come off the wrong way. Definitely one of my works in progress!

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    • mewhoami says:

      Thank you. I only do what I would like others to do, if it were me. We all have bad days, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is a tough line. It’s hard to be assertive without sounding rude. I think it’s all in our tone and words, but even then some people will take it as rude.

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  5. April says:

    She was rude. Assertiveness is confidence in oneself, and knowing how to achieve that without being rude. You’re right, she may have had a bad day. However, I have had many, many bad days and I always acknowledge a greeting, I smile and respond with a thank you, after a please–if you don’t mind,

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    • mewhoami says:

      That’s the way it should be. No matter what we’re going through, we shouldn’t take it out on others. It’s not their fault. A simple smile would have been nice, but she didn’t even do that. Not even a head nod.

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  6. markbialczak says:

    There is never a need to be assertive in a manner such as you illustrated above in a cashier’s line at a supermarket unless the service has already turned toward slow or uneven. Therefore, this woman was rude. On face value, it sounds like this customer feels above the help, mewhoami, and doesn’t feel the need to address them with any form of humanity or civility. Unless she was in the midst of a really, really bad day. Even that wouldn’t excuse the need to repeat the order that should have been formed as a polite request in the first place.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I agree with you. If that was assertiveness, then it was a little over the top. There was only one person in line in front of her and they checked out within 2 minutes, so I have no clue what would have upset her. It could have been a bad day. Or, just her being her. I hope not though. You’re right. She did sound like she felt that she was above the help. That’s sad, if that was the case.

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  7. lisasretro says:

    There is a fine line between assertive and rude. If you’re too friendly then assertive doesn’t come across. Some assertive women are called threatening or intimidating by their colleagues. I think this is a perception of weaker individuals because a similarly assertive woman wouldn’t see it or be concerned by it. Should those women soften who they are for these weaker colleagues? This is tricky.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That’s true. A person can’t be too friendly or else others won’t take them seriously. You’re right about women. I don’t think that they should be afraid to be assertive. However, bossy women are a different story entirely. (I’m a woman) In most cases though, if people are offended by their assertiveness then that is on them, not the one who is being assertive. With that said, whether male or female, assertiveness should be done carefully and with the proper use of words and tone.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. For me the “line” differs in each encounter/circumstance. As well as how well I know the party/parties involved. I have no one-size-fits-all approach.

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    • mewhoami says:

      That makes sense. It would be nearly impossible to come up with a standard to base this off of, given that each circumstance is different. However in my opinion, simple courtesy should be used no matter what the situation may be.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Assertive” is fine when you are having to work for or push for something. But when you are greeted, and the situation as you described was a pressure free kind of setting….that’s just rude. She can be non-chatty and all business like, but even that calls for a basic line of respect and dignity towards others interacting with you.

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  10. I once read a story about a man who boarded a train with his 3 young kids. The kids were behaving badly and a writer sitting right opposite them, can’t helped thinking – ‘Here’s another parent who does not bother to discipline his kids.’ At some point, the man looked at the writer and gave her a smile…a smile that says ‘I’m a bit embarrassed my kids are behaving badly.’ The writer smiled and said, “It’s tough isn’t it with kids?” He replied, Yes, we just left the hospital…..their mother have just passed away. My first thought was ‘Yes, she’s rude!’ but I’m reminded that things are not always what it seemed.

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  11. Adrian B says:

    In this case We all assume that she was rude BUT do we know the real cause of her actions? I believe that everybody done that once in a life time , without any bad intentions. I have to say that I do not agree with her actions but we are humans.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I completely agree. We have no idea what the true cause behind her actions was. Who knows what happened to her before she went shopping that day. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and think of her as a nice woman, just having a bad day.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Glynis Jolly says:

    She was rude. No doubt about it. Where was the ‘please’? Where was the ‘thank you’? You can demand what you need without being rude.

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  13. I have a bit of trouble myself – just interacting with coworkers. I have a bad? habit of hearing something insulting and snarky in my head, and with women I know damn well not to say it out loud. Now that I work with men, I do let it out, but I still feel kinda bad because my zingers are stingers. Makes the other lads laugh like mad, which makes me feel good at the same time. Weird, huh?

    But yea, your one was being rude, entitled, superior and privileged. She was assuming the lowly clerk wasn’t smart enough to obey her demands so repeated them. Also no common courtesy or recognition that the person on the other side of the counter was, indeed, a person and not just a slave there to serve her.

    Clearly the clerk was smart because she/he recognised another entitled customer and treated her the way she wanted. This is why retail is one of the hardest and most unappreciated jobs in the modern world!

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    • mewhoami says:

      I think women can be a little oversensitive at times. Not saying that we shouldn’t respect everyone with our words, but women do seem to take it to heart more than men do. Don’t know why that is, and I’m a woman and still don’t understand it. 🙂

      A slave to her…that’s exactly how it looked and sounded like she was treating her. I felt so bad for cashier. I agree with you, that they deal with some difficult people and get paid so little for it.

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  14. Pingback: Everyone Has a Story | Me – Who am I?

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