Assertive or Rude? Avoid These 5 Confidence Faux Pas!

business meeting

This morning I had a business meeting with my bank manager. As bank managers go, she is lovely. Having shared with her that my mother just sold her house and how stressful that has been, she asked me how much my mother got for her house and then she asked me how much she paid for the new place. And then (wait for it) she asked how my mum was going to invest the money she made. Really?! When does chasing the business become downright rude? I felt she crossed the line. 

Post updated September, 2018

Tomorrow I am speaking at the Entrepreneurial Women’s Cafe in Toronto on the topic of confidence. Specifically,  5 Ways to Instantly Appear Confident and Win More Clients.

So naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about executive behavior and what makes someone appear confident. The more that I read, the more that I realize there is a fine line between assertive behavior, confidence and being rude.

There is another issue here – What I perceive as assertive confidence, may appear utterly rude to someone else. I suppose it is subjective to a degree. Is it possible to be assertive and humble at the same time?



a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.



assertiveness is the quality of being confident without being aggressive.

Confidence is an inner knowing that we are good enough. 

We are assertive when we aren’t afraid to wear our confidence. The difficultly seems to be in one’s definition of aggression.



forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one’s aims and interests.

If I use this definition of aggression, then my bank manager was indeed rude, as her assertive behavior was solely in the pursuit of her own aims and business objectives to score another client – my mother!

5 Confidence Faux Pas

  1. Handshake: There is nothing worse than a limp-wristed handshake. I attend a lot of business events and I’m always amazed by the number of executives who shake hands with only the tips of their please don’t bit me fingers. If this is you, STOP the spaghetti handshake!
  2. Apologising: If I could remove one word from the English language, it would be sorry. This word is way overused – especially by women; Canadian women even more, I’m sorry to say (hee). When we cannot stop apologizing for everything and everyone, what we are really saying is: I’m sorry for being me. Observe how frequently you apologize for just existing and challenge yourself to 7 days without using the word sorry. If you are truly sorry for a wrong, then beef up your sorry, and apologize.
  3. Eye Contact: Confident assertive people can hold a gaze. Too much eye contact may feel intrusive, rude or creepy. We need to strike a balance. You know that feeling when you are at party and the person you are speaking to is scanning the room for someone better? It feels awful doesn’t it? Don’t be that person – Learn to listen with your body and use your eyes to connect. People instinctively like those who listen.
  4. Strengths: I was speaking recently to a group of female execs on how to be successful with business video. I asked them what they could teach me – what they were really good at – and you know what happened? SILENCE! It was like pulling teeth. Why is it so difficult to share our strengths? Confident people know what they are good at. Take five minutes right now and write down ten things you are really good at. Anything counts – ironing, baking, laughter, motherhood, cleaning, writing. Go for it!
  5. Posture: Of course this has to be on my list. When was the last time you met a confident person who slouched? Exactly! When we sit or stand with expansive power postures, we boost our testosterone levels and testosterone is associated with success and the winner effect.

I don’t think the subject of assertive behavior is quite as clear-cut and simple as I’ve presented in this post; and do please let me know your own personal thoughts on this in the comments below, but I hope it stimulates some good conversation and debate.

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