Posted by: leakyfaucet | November 1, 2007

How to be assertive without being a Bitch

Women have the unfortunate disadvantage of being labelled a bitch when they’re really just trying to stand up for themselves.  I myself have this problem, and struggle with it every day.  While I may constantly fail at being considered ‘assertive’ and instead always get labelled a bitch, I still know the do’s and dont’s:

1.  Choose your battles.  As women, we have to always think ahead.  If something is bothering you and you want to change it, make sure it is important.  Is the thing that is bothering you very urgent and serious?  Or should you save your breath for something more important down the road.  Over-assertiveness will get you the Bitch Award overnight if you aren’t careful.

2.  Watch your tone.  Make sure you don’t come off as too forceful or too wimpy when you confront the person/people who are doing you wrong.  If you come off too forceful, not only will you come off as a bitch but your point will be quickly forgotten.  As women, people always assume we’re moody or hormonal.  If you come off as too upset- the person you’re directing your assertiveness towards will just think you’re in a bad mood, and won’t take your points to heart.  Don’t come off too wimpy or weak either, or else the same assumptions (moodiness, hormones) will be applied.

3.  Have several examples.  When something is upsetting you, make sure it has happened more than once.  People make mistakes, and if something bothers you and only happened once- then perhaps it’s too soon to call the person on it.  Make sure you can recall at least 3 separate occassions where the incident occured, and if the person seems confused or surprised that you’re bringing it up- you can list these occassions as ‘proof’.  And remember Rule #2 when you do this.  Don’t be whiny or nasty about it.

4.  Know what needs to be done to resolve the problem.  Don’t go into addressing a problem without having a solution in mind.  If you confront someone about something you want them to change, know what needs to be done to make both parties happy.  Especially with men, what you’re going to hear in response to your complaint is going to be “what do you want me to do” or something along those lines.  So make sure you have a suggestion ready.

5.  Say Thank you.  It is important to say ‘thank you’ after someone takes the time to listen to your issue.  Also make sure to acknowledge any positive changes that occur after the fact as well.  If someone makes the effort to change to help solve your issue, thank them.



  1. When somebody calls me a bitch I take it as a compliment.

    Does this list also apply to boys that don’t want to come across as too bitchy and aggressive?

  2. While the above might help, the real differences between being assertive and being a bitch (and there are huge differences) are aggression and open-mindedness. I have worked with plenty of assertive women, and they are not overly aggressive, are open to different ideas (at least hearing them) and most importantly of all, they have a sense of humor and don’t take things personally. The bitches I have worked with, and there are far too many of them, try to be “assertive” with every interaction, are relatively cold natured, and rather than discuss their viewpoints (even “assertively”) they try to force them on people.
    I hear all the time that “assertive women are considered bitches by men.” Wrong, women who think they are assertive but are really bitchy claim that.
    Be confident in your opinions and with your knowledge and abilities, and don’t try to force them on people. It just comes across as insecure, because that’s what it is.
    There is nothing complimentary in being referred to as a bitch, and if you think there is, well, the writing is on the wall.

  3. Charles- I’m glad you know the difference between assertive and bitchy women, unfortunately many people don’t, so you have to watch your actions so that someone who may be immature and/or ignorant doesn’t take the heat.

    Tanya- You should not tell yourself that you’re okay with being labelled a bitch. It is not a compliment and it just means people don’t like you. You should encourage people to use other adjectives to describe you.

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