Respect 101… and the hazards of being assertive

Assertive women are perceived MORE negatively and less competent than assertive men.

Respect 101 and the hazards of being assertive… Got respect? Know why it matters to men?

The other night while I was teaching public speaking at our local community college, I made a comment that rattled the cages of a few of the women. I didn’t mean to upset them, but they needed to know the truth.

And here it is: according to a research study conducted in 2015 by Vital Smarts, the perceived competency of women DROPS by 35% when she is as assertive as a man is (all other things being equal – including the words) in the workplace. And yes, the men are also penalized for assertive behavior, but to a much lesser degree.

woman harsh

Wondering why heis defensive-

What is also interesting, is that “mild” and “moderate” forcefulness are considered nearly equally negative in women, while they are NOT in men.

Bottom line: the more assertive women get, the more negatively we are evaluated at work. 

You should totally check out the group Vital Smarts. They have an awesome book, “Crucial Conversations.” A worthy read. Their website  is chock full of awesomeness, too.

This whole phenomena is based on a concept called, “unconscious bias.” You can learn more about it here.

I’ve been working with communicators long enough to know their findings apply in all relationships – wives that are harsh don’t have relationships with their husbands or kids that are healthy or work. Maybe you aren’t given to general disrespect, but you occasionally “lose it” and indulge in a fit of rage or two. Understand that it takes your husband a lot longer to recover from that than it does you. Research by Gottman shows that women, in general, also take a shorter amount of time than men to bounce back after a flooding experience.

The advice in this article is good in giving some ideas to stop and settle the flooding response. I’ve found personally, that not trusting my emotions is really helpful. Here’s why: Like the muscle memory that comes with riding a bicycle or horses, we have emotional muscle memory from our childhoods that impact our interactions in today’s Now. We teach this in Daughters of Sarah, our course for married women:

  • Don’t trust your feelings
  • Examine your childhood – what did your parents model?
  • Take your thoughts captive – and evaluate them
  • Put a healthy SPACE in a flooded or damaging interaction

…just to name a few…

You know what I'm talking about. It's (1)

So let’s stop all the harsh behavior. It’s not helpful.

I have a theory… I think this “harsh” behavior can trigger a memory of mom – and not that mom is bad, but mom’s been harsh at some point, which creates shame in her kid – so when she or he grows up and experiences this harshness again, it feels like being shamed, like interacting with mom – and of course the perception then becomes negative, even if the woman is right. As Emerson Eggerich says, “Right but wrong at the top of your voice.”

Of course this coincides with today’s dare – and our first RESPECT 101 TIP:

STOP being harsh. Speak gently, sweetly, kindly. Always. 

So today, I’m daring you to be gentle, kind, sweet. FEMININE. Yes, I said that. I’m NOT suggesting that you stop being honest or brave, or not address issues. We need to do those things, but it is the way in which we go about them that matters.


How are your words today? Are they respectful? Too forceful? Are you able to speak the truth in love today? What do you think about the harshness of women? Can’t wait to hear!

You may have noticed the blog has a new format – what do you think?  Hopefully it is easier to navigate!

Love to you,

N (2)

A few other posts of interest:

Logical & emotional issues with conflict with tweens & teens from Debbie’s blog

If you lead Bible studies, you’ll want to learn how to help women actually CHANGE

And here’s a leadership assessment for you to look at & consider

How to deal with an angry husband

Top 10 ways to destroy your marriage

15 ways to be disrespectful


titus 2 women leadership

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Respect 101… and the hazards of being assertive

  1. Great topic and timely. My husband reacts negatively to being told anything “negative” whichhe seems to define as basically anything he doesn’t want to hear. It frustrates me to the point that it’s hard to believe that how I say it matters. He isn’t going to receive it because he doesn’t want to admit that he makes mistakes.

    Anyway, I am assertive and plain spoken. My husband often complains about my tone. I need a lot of prayer that God will help me with this because my husband says what he wants, how he wants without regard to his tone or whether he is respectful to me. I understand that I must change if we are going to remain together in peace. But honestly I resent having to do all the work.. This is not what marriage is supposed to be.


    • True – from our end of the experience, at least. I wonder if it is what God sees, sometimes. He often reminds me that He made us so different and that our triggers are ours – and while a person who loves us might have the maturity to not trigger us intentionally, he also might not… and still not have ill-intent. We make excuses for babies and children and teens and 20-somethings because of their maturity that we can see, and we don’t take things as personally, aren’t triggered by their behaviors, but the truth is the adults in our lives, and we ourselves have areas of stunted maturity, areas where we haven’t grown – hence our own triggering from those scars, and the triggering and hurting of others. I am 100% sure that I have deeply wounded my husband. 100%. I have never intended to. But it happened. I will also do it again – and not on purpose. I like to think I’m not a 5 year old, but the truth is that I’m human. I’m also not male. What hurts him is so different than what hurts me…and how deeply we do this to each other is so often impacted by where we are in our walk with Christ. I wish I didn’t wander off ever. Ever. But I do, even though I know spending time with Him is the most important thing – more important than air. Bread. Life. He is everything to me, yet I am a child in my relationship too often, swayed away from my life’s true Love by a butterfly or shiny substitute. Not right. Not good. But true. And when I remember myself in this way, I think of those who hurt me with more grace – and then I choose to do what I can to stay focused on the result and not being right. 🙂 My own pride is what most often gets in my way of being sweet, gentle, while telling the truth – and those married to hyper defensive men have a different dance to step to because that’s what He decided we needed, or allowed us to create because we both needed it. Nothing here on earth is the way it is meant to be. I think that’s why we all long for more. 🙂

      Also, don’t read into the post that it’s all our responsibility – I AM saying, however, that I know I can impact people’s perceptions of me by how I interact with them – and I fully believe that RESPECT – especially when undeserved – is the way to have the most influence in all our relationships. I’m not saying anything about another’s responsibilities or my own, but I am saying I can impact an outcome, which is what I want – for myself, and for others. 🙂 And for the record, I don’t believe we do any of this. 🙂 I don’t think our flesh can. 🙂 I believe it is the Holy Spirit in us that can do and be any of these things – so the only thing we need to “do” is BE with God, learn, grow, obey…He then operates in and through us doing things we never could imagine. 🙂

      When someone says or does something to us that could hurt, and we are filled with the Spirit, we don’t even notice it at the time. It is in the looking back that we see, and then think, Wow. That should have upset me but it didn’t!! And sometimes we have it pointed out to us – because our thoughts are not about ourselves and we just move from one thing to the next. When a baby wakes you in the middle of the night to nurse, an emotionally healthy mom will treasure those sweet moments and harbor no resentment, no anger, no ill-will. When we are worn and sick or emotionally unhealthy or immature (like the 19 year old who didn’t want a baby but gets stuck with one thru bad choices and blames the baby for her circumstances, thinking, “stupid baby, if you weren’t here, I’d be able to sleep all night, but no, you have to be fed…), like her, we may be resentful. I believe these areas of maturity exist in ALL of our relationships. 🙂 I believe (and have experienced, though not 100% of the time) our God IS that big and CAN create these healthier perspectives and outcomes through His Spirit. 🙂

      Love to you,

Comments are closed.