Mastering Assertiveness without Aggressiveness

Assertiveness is often mis-categorized as a negative attribute. However, it is only by being assertive that you can avoid the common communication pitfall of being passive aggressive. Assertiveness requires direct, honest communication, but it can easily be perceived as aggressive or hostile. Done correctly, the act of being assertive simply allows you to communicate more clearly and effectively. Incorrectly, you may bulldoze the feelings and needs of others to promote your own needs and wants. Continue reading to learn how to strike the right balance.

Learn to accept and process anger.
Communicating in anger or frustration is a challenge—yet it is at these times when clear communication is most critical. Therefore, a mindful approach to anger is required. When you are facing negative input, understand that anger is a normal reaction. Allow yourself to feel that anger but take a moment to pinpoint what exactly is causing that feeling. For example, if you are angry at your spouse for not picking up the dry cleaning, the true cause of that anger may stem from feeling like you are not heard in your relationship, not the chore itself.

Be clear about what you want.
Assertiveness isn’t just a reaction. It should also guide you to inform others about what you want. For example, if you need a project completed by an employee, you shouldn’t say “If it’s not too much to ask, can you run this report today?” Instead, keep it simple and direct. “I need this report. Can you run it by the end of the day?” Flexibility is another key. If your request is met with a no, offer a collaborative solution or consider whether the timeline can be adjusted. On the flip side, don’t hesitate to say no when you simply have too much on your plate. The bottom line is that you should always communicate your needs as honestly and directly as possible.

Listen to others and validate their feelings.
One of the biggest challenges of mastering assertiveness is understanding that communication is two-sided. So, you need to not only learn how to speak assertively but to also listen assertively. To do this, you should maintain eye contact and wait to respond to others as you listen openly and respectfully. If your immediate reaction to another individual is defensiveness, remember to validate their feelings and understand where they are coming from before offering your own response.

My name is Jessica Cox, and I’ve spent years helping others cultivate self-confidence, assertiveness, and an attitude of Possible Thinking. Allow me to share my story and my strategies for success by speaking at your next gathering.