Summary: “Embrace assertiveness; avoid aggressiveness.”
Sometimes people want to be more assertive, but they fail to do so because they are a bit confused about the difference in assertive and aggressive behavior. These two labels that describe behavior are often used interchangeably, but assertiveness and aggressiveness are not really the same thing.
The term aggressiveness often describes behavior that can be classified as hostile (perhaps even violent), pushy, bullying and inappropriate. Aggressive people show little respect for people’s boundaries and use forceful and intimidating tactics to get what they want.
Assertive people, on the other hand, might also use forceful tactics to get what they want, but they do it in a way that is appropriate and respects other people’s boundaries.
Failure to clearly distinguish between these two types of behavior discourages some people from asking for what they want, especially in stressful or difficult situations.
If you want to practice being more assertive, start with a few minor issues that you might normally overlook just to avoid conflict. Rather than sucking it up and tolerating these issues, ask for what you really want in an appropriate manner…and be persistent. Hopefully being assertive with some of these little issues will help your nervous system get more comfortable being more assertive when the stakes are higher. If you want to further explore this topic, consider reading When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel Smith.
Remember, you are not being aggressive, or pushy, or inappropriate when you respectfully ask for what you want, speak your mind and stand up for yourself.
Being aggressive is a negative character trait that can easily get you in trouble and damage important relationships. Being assertive is a noble character trait that can help you joyfully participate in life.
Joyfully participate in life today…Chris