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Aggressiveness vs. Assertiveness

Aggressiveness versus Assertiveness.

This is a topic that I think is very confusing to many, but when you learn the difference it can be extremely empowering. Let’s first start with the definitions of both of these words just for clarification purposes. There are many definitions for both but here are a few:

Aggressive - characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; ready or likely to attack or confront, militantly forward or menacing, more severe, intensive, or comprehensive than usual especially in dosage or extent, making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive, vigorously energetic, especially in the use of initiative and driving forcefulness, boldly assertive and forward; pushy.

Assertive - having or showing a confident and forceful personality, behaving confidently and able to say in a direct way what you want or believe, confident and proud together, confident and direct in claiming one’s right or putting forward one’s views, a form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the persons rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another

Aggression denies the rights of others while assertiveness honors everyone’s rights including your own. The point that I’m trying to make is that I think when we’re dealing with friends, family, coworkers or whoever in our life it’s important not to be so aggressive when you’re trying to make your point. Many times we get so emotional about a situation and we wants to get our point across so badly that we can get in somebody’s face, start pointing fingers, raising our voices and just repeating our point over and over vigorously and energetically. This is usually met with resistance because the other person’s defenses come up when they’re feeling attacked. This is completely normal behavior.

What I suggest is still being able to make your point but just not being so forceful about it. When you are up-front about what you want and bold in devising a plan that helps you get it, this is assertive, meaning you act with authority and confidence. If you notice the key word here is confidence - it was repeated many times in the definitions. So even if you’re met with resistance when you’re trying to make your point or state your case, as long as you are confident in what you’re trying to accomplish there’s no need to get aggressive with the other person.

It’s extremely empowering when you are just able to say in a direct way to somebody what is truly on your mind or from your heart without having to defend it or prove it. Being assertive is about standing in your power. Even if the other person comes at you and tries to tear down what you’re saying or tell you that your point is invalid, the important message here is to realize that assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. It does not mean you have to back down, it just means that you can make your point without threatening physical gestures or raised voices or even going on the attack with somebody else. Speak your truth with love and confidence, and let go of unhealthy old communication habits that do not serve your highest good. The good news is that it is a learnable skill and a mode of communication that will help you go far in life if you can master it!

Lisa Ouellet

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