Are You a Jerk or a Pushover? Study Says You're Likely Oblivious

06/05/2015 10:32 am ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016

While you're likely to identify the "the jerk," and "the pushover" in most any crowd, there's a good chance you struggle to recognize which title best suits you. Perhaps you assume you have a reputation as being "tough," or maybe you think you're the "the nice guy," but there's evidence that shows your assumptions about what others think of you are likely wrong.

According to a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, most people fail to recognize whether they're behaving too aggressively or too passively in the eyes of others. The study paired people for mock negotiations. After each deal was made, participants answered questions about their own levels of assertiveness and their partner's level of assertiveness. They were also asked to judge how their partner likely perceived them.

The results revealed that 57% of people who were deemed to be under-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive, or even over-assertive. Meanwhile, 56% of people who were seen as over-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.

People who thought they had "crossed the line" into being too pushy often tried to repair the relationship. As a result, they eventually accepted less lucrative deals. They were unaware that they didn't need to fix the relationship "problem" because the other person didn't even recognize that a problem existed in the first place.

The Consequences of Limited Self-Awareness

Whether you're asking your boss for a raise, or you're talking to your partner about where to spend the holidays this year, effective negotiating skills are important. Limited self-awareness about when you're being too pushy, and when you're not speaking up enough can wreak havoc on your relationships.

A lack of self-awareness can interfere with your ability to reach your personal and professional goals. If people perceive you as a jerk, they'll be less interested in negotiating with you. But, if you're perceived as a pushover, others are more likely to try taking advantage of you.

Ultimately, your intended message doesn't matter. What matters is how people receive it. If you thought you were being kind but others perceive you as a jerk, your message will be lost.

Increase Your Self-Awareness

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned. But, like all skills, it takes practice to speak up for yourself in an appropriate manner.

Keep in mind that just because you got what you want, doesn't mean you were appropriately assertive. Hostile or aggressive behavior often gets people what they want in the short-term but it damages relationships.

Be open to asking for feedback from others. After a negotiation, ask the other person for their reactions. Good friends and family, and trusted co-workers may be willing to offer honest advice. Soliciting feedback is a good way to gain insight into how other people see you.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.