How to Be Assertive without Being Aggressive

Self-respect allows you to respect others. The former allows you to be assertive and the latter helps you do it without being aggressive. What's the best way to reach this balance? Continue reading to find out.
How to Be Assertive without Being Aggressive

Last update: 10 May, 2021

Assertiveness isn’t always understood. In fact, people often mistake it for being aggressive. But you don’t have to fight in order to be assertive. Assertiveness is a social skill that allows people to communicate ideas and desires and stand up for their rights.

Thus, an assertive person can say “no” when that’s precisely what they want to say. They can also disagree and be politically incorrect if they have to. In addition, they know how to ask for something sincerely and clearly.

In other words, an assertive person is someone who knows how to ask, refuse and exchange, or negotiate with others. it’s important not to mistake assertiveness for sincerity or aggressiveness.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

-Warren Buffett-

A woman being assertive.

The assertive, the passive, and the aggressive

Assertiveness is one of the vortexes of a triangle, where the other two ends are passiveness and aggressiveness. Passive people who avoid saying what they think or can’t stand up for their rights are one of the extremes. They find it hard to ask for things and believe that doing so makes people uncomfortable.

Aggressive people are the exact opposite. They don’t ask for things but demand them instead. These people don’t express their feelings and shout what they want without taking others into account. This is because these people truly believe they have the right to say and do as they please.

Assertiveness isn’t the middle ground between these two extremes but another approach to communication. There’s enough self-respect to avoid staying silent when you need to and enough respect for others to take them into consideration.

Assertiveness without aggressiveness

Expressing what one thinks, feels, or desires can clash with others, as it’s often unavoidable. No one likes to be refused an invitation, for example. Discomfort when a subordinate doesn’t agree with some directive and expresses it is also common in hierarchical relationships.

A woman being aggressive.

But this opposition doesn’t have to be aggressive and end in a conflict.

Here are some ways to avoid it:

  • See things collectively. It’s best to analyze your own perspective, as well as those of others, when dealing with a situation. You should think about how you’re going to solve the problem.
  • Take into consideration the possible reaction of others and anticipate it if you’re going to say something that may offend or upset them. Don’t approach it superficially, only understand that everyone is different and what you say also has a varying impact.
  • Stick to the facts and back them up with data. Defend your ideas by citing concrete facts, rather than speculating. This isn’t only the most reasonable thing to do but will also give you credibility.
  • Stating what you feel is much better than guessing how others feel and what their intentions or motivations are. As you can see, saying how a certain situation makes you feel allows you to communicate better.
  • Be polite to others and understand that their point of view could broaden your own. Some people are worth listening to. Thus, there’s no need to challenge them or be on the defensive.
  • Evaluate your motivations. It’s important to reflect on the validity of your motivations when you say something that clashes with others or defends a right. This way, you won’t react automatically and won’t feel like you need to attack someone.
  • Be persuasive. After analyzing your convictions, you realized that they’re firmer than ever, even though they seem unreasonable to others. Thus, you must communicate them precisely and clearly. Being assertive isn’t about imposing yourself onto others.

You need to boost your self-esteem to be able to be assertive, without being disrespectful or aggressive.

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  • González, L. G., & Kasparane, A. G. (2009). Asertividad: un análisis teórico-empírico. Enseñanza e investigación en psicología, 14(2), 403-425.