Being Assertive Is NOT Bossy

Women who exhibit assertive behaviour are often labeled bossy, aggressive, or even bitchy, whereas men who display similar behaviour are often praised for their leadership skills. Again, it is due to deep-rooted gender biases and societal expectations of how men and women should behave.

Throughout history, women have been conditioned to be polite, submissive, and accommodating, while men have been taught to be assertive, confident, and commanding. When women deviate from these gender norms and display assertive and proactive behaviour, they are often met with resistance and pushback. It can come as criticism, rejection, or outright hostility.

why assertive women are often perceived bossy

In the workplace, assertive women are often perceived as a threat to the status quo. In addition, they are seen as challenging traditional gender roles and norms, which can be uncomfortable for those who are used to the gender binary. As a result, assertive women are often met with resistance and labeled bossy, whereas men who display similar behaviour are often celebrated as strong leaders.

1. Gender bias

A deep-rooted societal bias expects women to be polite, submissive, and accommodating, while men are expected to be assertive and commanding. As a result, it can lead to women being labeled bossy when they display assertive behaviour.

2. Double standards

Men who display assertive behaviour are often praised for their leadership skills, while women who embody the same behaviour are criticized and labeled bossy.

3. Traditional gender roles

Society has long-held beliefs about how men and women should behave. As a result, women who display assertive behaviour are often seen as deviating from traditional gender roles, which can make others uncomfortable.

4. Cultural norms

Cultural norms and expectations can also influence how assertive behaviour is perceived. For example, in some cultures, women who speak up and assert themselves are seen as going against the norm and may be viewed as bossy.

5. Fear of change

When women challenge the status quo, it can be unsettling for those who are used to how things have always been. It can lead to them being labeled as bossy or demanding.

6. Lack of confidence

Women who are assertive and confident can be intimidating to some people. It can lead to them being labeled bossy when they are self-assured and knowing what they want.

7. Communication style

Assertive women may use a direct communication style and be to the point. Those not used to this type of communication can see it as aggressive or bossy.

8. Personal biases

People may have personal biases or prejudices that lead them to label assertive women as bossy. For example, it can be based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

9. Jealousy or insecurity

People who feel threatened by assertive women may label them as bossy out of jealousy or insecurity. It can be particularly true in competitive environments, such as the workplace.

10. Misunderstanding

Finally, sometimes people misunderstand assertive behaviour and perceive it as bossy when it is not. But, again, this can be due to a need for more understanding of what assertive behaviour entails.

strategies to help women cope with this situation

When women are called bossy when they are just being proactive,
strong, and assertive, it can be frustrating and hurtful.

1. Own your assertiveness

Don’t let others’ negative labels make you doubt yourself. Assertiveness is a valuable trait, and being assertive and confident in your communication style is okay.

2. Reframe the situation

Instead of internalizing the negative label of bossy, reframe the situation as an opportunity to educate others about assertiveness and gender bias. Use the situation as a teachable moment to encourage others to recognize and challenge gender stereotypes.

3. Seek support

Reach out to a mentor, coach, or trusted friend who can provide guidance and support. Discuss your feelings and concerns, and brainstorm ways to address the situation effectively.

4. Communicate clearly

When communicating with others, be clear and direct in your communication style. For example, use “I” statements to express your needs and feelings and focus on finding solutions rather than assigning blame.

5. Educate yourself

Learn more about assertiveness, gender bias, and effective communication strategies. It will help you feel more confident and better equipped to navigate difficult situations.

6. Set boundaries

If someone consistently labels you bossy, setting boundaries and limiting your interactions with that person may be necessary. Surround yourself with people who appreciate and support your assertiveness.

7. Practice self-care

Taking care of yourself emotionally and physically is essential. Take time to engage in activities that make you feel good and help you relax, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. It will help you maintain confidence and resilience in the face of harmful labels.

8. Challenge the label

If someone calls you bossy, ask them to explain why they feel that way. It can help them see the difference between assertive behaviour and bossiness. It can also help you understand how to communicate your assertiveness better.

9. Seek out allies

Find others who support your assertiveness and who can help you combat negative labels. These can be friends, colleagues, or mentors who understand the value of assertive behaviour and can provide guidance and support.

10. Be patient

Changing societal attitudes towards assertive women is a slow process. It’s essential to be patient and recognize that you are part of a more significant movement to challenge gender stereotypes and create a more equitable society. Celebrate small victories along the way and stay committed to your personal growth and development.

The fact remains, to combat this gender bias, it is essential for women to continue to be assertive and to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations. Women should be encouraged to embrace their assertiveness and not be afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves. It is also essential for society as a whole to recognize and address the gender bias that exists in our culture and to work towards creating a more inclusive and equal society for all.


Chippy is a dreamer and optimist. She believes, we become what we hope, aspire, dream to be and knows how to make a dream or two happen. Seventeen years of experience, struggling, winning, failing, succeeding and failing again and making it, she knows what it takes to build a successful project, a business, and what it means by starting from the bottom up. It takes determination, dedication, and direction and that’s why her mission is to ‘step up & inspire.

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