Thursday, October 15, 2015

Assertive, Passive, Aggressive

Have you ever said? 'I wish I hadn't let them talk me into this.' or 'I just couldn't say no' or 'They don't respect me.'

Think about how you would handle a situation like this and select the assertive answer.  Sylvia has a client who consistently pays her late.  She values and needs this client, but the late payments are hindering her ability to be accurate with her accounting and to pay her own bills on time.

a. Find a way to push back the payment deadline to give the client more time.
b. Once the payment is late, call them every few days to ask when you can expect payment.
c. Be clear about the payment deadline and politely firm about not providing additional services or products until their account is current. 
d. Tell the client that it's not OK to pay late and you may have to cancel them. 
e. Make them pay up front - before you will fulfill the order.

'c' is the assertive answer.  In the past Sylvia had consistently allowed the client's payment to lag.  She started to restate when it was due and respectfully held fast to her commitment to stop services until payment is received.  Best to set this as an expectation in the original agreement. Most likely the client will respect her and value her services more.

The other choices:
'a' is passive. It reinforces the client's lack of responsibility and nothing will change.
'b' is passive-aggressive. It is deflating for Sylvia, makes her a nag and annoys the client. AND it may not change the behavior!
'd' is assertive and aggressive. If it's a rule stated in the original agreement and respectfully enforced: assertive.  When done as a punishment, it demeans the client and you might lose them.
'e' is aggressive and will damage your relationship. 

The key to a positive outcome in situations like this is to set clear standards and expectations at the beginning - then make sure the person does what is expected. (accountability).  Expect respect and accept only that!

Expect respect and accept nothing else!

This can be used in other relationships such as family members or members of groups.

Ann Meacham is president of Leadership Dynamics. Learn more about commanding respect and cooperation in your business and personal life. Check out her Leadership Coaching Program on her website. Feel free to contact her at 


  1. Good advice, especially for new entrepreneurs. Sometimes business and friendship overlap, and blur the lines.

  2. I love this topic! A few months ago, I took a Dale Carnegie course that shed light on this very subject. on the spectrum from passive to assertive to aggressive, I often find my self on the higher end towards aggressive. Now that I am aware of this AND I see the value of moving towards "assertive" it has served me well. Thanks for the content.