Several people have told me I need to be more confident and assertive.

When I hear this, my brain goes to ‘you need to be an asshole’.

I know the two are not the same, yet in my personal life, I have had them overlap thanks to certain individuals. My mom’s ex, for example, was part of our lives (the family) for quite some time. He even lived with us when I was a teenager. He was confident. He was assertive. And he was a gigantic asshole.

As an example, I remember quite clearly, an afternoon where he sat me down and told me that he and my mom were together now, and nothing was going to change that. How she was a woman, and he was a man, and as such, they needed time alone together. And that it was about time I started doing things for myself and not relying on her as much anymore, because she needed to focus on him and making him happy. So I needed to start thinking about my future, and what I was going to do, and how soon I could get out of the house and leave them to their bright and happy future together. Without me.

I was 16.

He really didn’t care what people thought about him. He got what he wanted both personally and professionally. He didn’t blink when asking for more money, or time off, or anything at all he wanted from his job. And they usually gave it to him.

But he was an asshole of the first degree, and I don’t want to be anything at all like him.

Which, a lot of people keep telling me, is a problem.

They also keep saying that you can be assertive and confident, without coming off as an asshole. I just need to figure that out in my own head.

The guy I describe above isn’t the only example I have or have witnessed. There was a guy I worked with who demanded twice the salary of anyone else in the company (and got it), refused to do the job he was hired to do in favor of a job he wanted to do (and got away with it), came in late and left early, drank heavily (sometimes at work) and took his employees out to bars to drink with him, did drugs, never got his work done and blamed it on everyone else, and was caught stealing from the company and selling office supplies on eBay – and was never fired, arrested, reprimanded, or anything. And he was a gigantic asshole. But he also got everything he wanted.


I need to figure this shit out.


  • Larry Kollar Posted April 7, 2014 11:10 am

    Yeah, I’ve never figured out how they get away with it. I think it IS possible to be confident, assertive, and avoid assholery, but it takes constant self-assessment and a firm knowledge of where the line is. And being OK with not getting what you want every time.

  • J.T. Evans Posted April 7, 2014 11:27 am

    Kindness and compassion. Those are the two ingredients that go with confidence and being assertive. If you’re just confident and assertive, often times, you’re also an asshole. Toss in equal measures of kindness and compassion, and you’ll be one of those people that others like to look up to. Heck, some situations require more kindness and less assertion, and other times it’s flipped around.

  • Beverly Posted April 7, 2014 12:43 pm

    JT’s got it right there. And besides, he may have gotten everything he wanted, but everyone around him was calling him an asshole.

    I feel this, and because I’m a teacher I feel it with young children. I get to be an asshole not because I’m an asshole, but because I’m fair they their brains literally just don’t register with “fair” yet. And TBH there are plenty of adults who don’t grok fair either, so there you are.

    Anyway, I digress. I think the difference is asking, not telling. Ask with confidence and conviction; don’t tell. Like we tell kids when writing: show us, don’t tell us. IT’s a fine balance, but not impossible.

  • Tamsyn Coulon Posted April 7, 2014 1:26 pm

    I am right there with ya. Their assholery success has nothing to do with the golden rule, being nice, or being deserving. -And- such arrogant sense of entitlement is not related to socio-economic status cuz these critters are Everywhere. Perhaps that is the balance we seek? The sense of entitlement without the arrogance.

  • Paul Weimer Posted April 8, 2014 6:25 am

    I’m too nice, and wind up being a doormat to the more, ah, ruthless. So I know exactly what you mean

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