He is a leader - She is bossy        

    He is honest - She is rude        

He is assertive - She is a B!tch


Have you ever noticed that different language is used when discussing women vs. men in the workplace? I have. Often times women are dubbed as bossy, rude and b!tchy whereas men are described as assertive, a leader, and a straight shooter when demonstrating the same behaviours.
Is it that all women are really just b!tches or is it that we mislabel the assertiveness we see in women?

Recently, I’ve started telling women who are assertive that I respect them for being assertive. Many of them seem shocked at my acclamation and are concerned that they come off as being rude. Wow! What is it about being assertive that many women shy away from? Is it the fear of being perceived as a b!tch? Is it out of fear of actually getting what we want, and the guilt that inevitably comes with that? Or are we unsure how to assert what we want in a positive way?  For many women, the answer may be a combination of all three.  How often do we as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, and colleagues put others first? I bet many women would answer “every day”.

You may sacrifice sleep for your child’s morning hockey practices or to finish the laundry.  You may sacrifice family time to stay late at the office to finish that important project. You may sacrifice “you time” in order to read a bedtime story to your young child (for the third time tonight).  Every day you make sacrifices for the ones you love but sometimes you need to be able to assert yourself, your needs, and your wants in a positive manner.

For example, you may need to assert yourself when your boss asks you to stay late for a meeting, which you don’t need to attend, and you had planned to hit the gym before going home.  Do you quietly resign yourself to skipping the gym (“you time”) or do you assert your needs? If you would grudgingly show up to the meeting, sit through it bored to tears, and go home none the better for attending, you may need skills for how to assert yourself in the workplace!

How can you develop your assertive skills?

1. Start by identifying your needs and your wants.  Being assertive is about knowing what you want, and respectfully asking for it. It is not about steam rolling everyone, and being bossy. Being assertive starts with self-reflection and knowing what you want is the first step!

2. Once you’ve identified what you need, it is time to ask for it. In order to ask for what you need in an assertive way, follow the three simple steps listed below to create an ‘I Statement’.

I feel… (Insert how you feel)
When… (Insert behavior)
I would like/rather/prefer… (Insert preferred behavior)

Example: "I feel frustrated when I am interrupted. I would prefer the opportunity to finish my thought before moving on to the next idea."

An ‘I Statement’ is an assertive communication tool that can be used by the speaker to help defuse the situation by taking responsibility for their feelings and needs. In contrast, a ‘You Statement’ can be seen as blaming and confrontational. It is the difference between taking responsibility for your emotions/thoughts/feelings, and putting the responsibility on the other person.

3. Practice your new skills with friends, colleagues, and family members. It will help build your confidence as you get used to telling people what it is you want, and how you expect to be treated. Remember, being assertive is about knowing what you want but also about respecting people’s decisions. It is not about control.


Need more convincing that behaving assertively can help you? Here are some benefits:

  • Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Understand and recognize your feelings
  • Earn respect from others
  • Improve communication
  • Create win-win situations
  • Improve your decision-making skills
  • Create honest relationships
  • Gain more job satisfaction

It is time we embrace our assertive sides and recognize that being assertive doesn’t mean we are being b!tches. Let’s do this!

Yours in assertiveness,


Danielle Blommestyn
Conflict Management Practitioner


“I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy to be told instead that she has leadership skills”
– Sheryl Sandberg