How to Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive

Many people think that being assertive is the same as being aggressive but the two things are quite different. Assertive communication is confident communication that someone uses to put ideas forward and make their feelings or needs known. An assertive communication style can be a big asset when you are leading a team, interviewing for a job, or participating in a class at school.

Being able to communicate assertively with the proper skills is a real an asset, while aggressive communication can quickly create a toxic environment and/or drive people away leading to failed relationships.

Learning how to communicate assertively is something that a lot of people struggle with. A communications skills course like one that is taught by PsychCompany that focuses on assertive communication can teach anyone how to communicate more effectively and confidently.

Assertive vs Aggressive

The assertive communication definition is communication that is confident, whereas the definition of aggressive communication is forceful or belligerent. It’s easy to see why people think that aggressive and assertive mean the same thing. But they are very different.

Techniques to communicate with assertiveness focus on an individual respecting the rights of others as well their own needs. Aggressive communication is usually not respectful of anyone else and it can be very angry or forceful.

In contrast, assertive communication skills emphasize talking about issues or problems using “I” statement that don’t make assumptions about the feelings of others. Aggressive communication doesn’t take the rights or feeling of others into consideration at all.

Assertive Communication Examples

These assertive communication examples should highlight the difference between aggressive communication and assertive communication:

Helping your friend move

A friend asks you to help them move. You already had a bad day and you had planned on some self-care after work including a peaceful dinner and some time spent reading to calm down and restore your peace of mind. Assertive communication in this type of situation would be to politely tell your friend that you had a bad day and need some downtime tonight but you could help them tomorrow or another day. This type of “I” statement emphasizes what you need but is polite and constructive and offers a solution in that you will help them another time.

Coworker steals your idea

A coworker steals your idea and pitches it to your boss in a meeting. Assertive communication in this type of situation means remaining calm and polite but pointing out to your coworker and to your boss that the idea was yours and that you would be happy to work with that person to get their input on taking the idea to the next level.

Asking for help

You are in a class and the professor finishes a topic and then moves on to the next but you are still confused about the previous topic. Assertive communication in this case would be raising your hand and asking the professor to repeat a section or go over the material again because you didn’t understand it. Politely asking for clarification when you don’t understand is assertive, not aggressive. Assertive communication techniques are positive and confident.

Communication Tips At Work

The place where most people could rally use some help with assertive communication is at work. The workplace is fraught with communication landmines because of different people with different communication styles all trying to work together. Assertive communication is great for the workplace because it stresses a respectful understanding of the positions of others on important topics while not giving up your autonomy or letting someone minimize your needs or rights. Some helpful assertive communication tips for work are:

If you have an issue that needs to be addressed with a coworker talk to them about it privately. Brining up issues where all your other coworkers can hear can be seen as aggressive, not assertive.

Keep your language positive and focused on solutions, not blame. Blaming is aggressive but confidently looking for a solution to a problem is assertive.

Keep the lines of communication open. If you’re leading a team make sure that you check in with each team member individually and make sure they know that they come to you with questions or concerns. That way you won’t have to worry about your team trying to go around you when they have problems.

Body Language Counts

Use the right body language to emphasis that your communication is positive and not aggressive in nature. Make eye contact. Keep your body language open and friendly not closed off. Don’t cross your arms over your chest or turn away from the person that you’re talking to. Listen intently and when you speak do so using positive language. Don’t make assumptions about what your coworker is saying and don’t judge. Remember to stay focused on making “I” statements about your own feelings. Don’t tell anyone else what they feel or think.

Assertive communication is the key to getting what you want and building good relationships with the important people in your life while still respecting your own needs.

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