How do I become more assertive without feeling like I'm being mean?

(From Quora: click here)

I don't remember where I heard this for the first time (maybe in MBA) but I found it to be useful - try to be likable instead of nice. "Nice" people find it hard to deal with awkward situations and are often pushed aside by others. I don't think there any science to it and a lot depends on the kind of people you are dealing with.

I am not an expert in such matters but I do believe it is one of my strengths to deal with various kinds of people (learned from networking with people). This is what has worked for me:

1. Study people around you ("size 'em up" as they say). Spot the people who might be difficult to deal with and surprise them. I don't mean a surprise assault but surprise them with positive intent.

2. Try to be pleasant in conversations: A good sense of humor and positive body language can help in reducing the awkwardness in difficult situations. One doesn't have to be a comedian to see the funny side of things. I try to smile, make eye contact and take an extra breath when if things get heated up.

3. If it can't be pleasant - try to be clear and short. The longer a negative conversation goes, the more bitter it becomes. Short conversations help let-off some steam and the shock value is absorbed.

We need both pleasant and not-so-pleasant conversations for building strong and effective relationships with people around us. I don't think anyone should feel bad about being assertive when the situation demands. Too much of everything is obviously bad and people who constantly push others around rarely get anything worthwhile done.