Being Assertive vs. Being Aggressive

When people get in defense mode, myself included, initial responses may involve an assertive or an aggressive approach. This weekend I found myself acting in a passive aggressive way. I came to the realization that some people care mostly about themselves, which is a concept I find hard to understand. I put others first and do not react well toward those who are not the same. But in the grand scheme of it is either one of our approaches wrong? Forgive me for I have digressed, this post is beginning to sound like my journal entry.

My point is aggression is more of an emotional response, whereas assertiveness relates to a thoughtful action. By definition aggression involves hostile reactions that are not provoked (dictionary.com). An assertive response is filled with confidence and firmness (dictionary.com). Being assertive is a happy medium between passive and aggressive behavior. To minimize conflict, stress, anxiety, and other negative feelings when communicating with others, we need to dial down our emotional responses. This will make room for thoughtful, well-informed reactions. I realized, after the fact, that my approach was not proving my point, but making me look like a resentful brat.

Steps to scale back the onset of aggression include:

  1. Recognize the places, people, and things that promote these feelings.  If you know your triggers ahead of time you can mentally prep a more effective response.
  2. If the situation is happening at the moment, take the time to step away and calm down.
  3. Quiet your thoughts and fully listen to the other person.  The main reason people jump to an aggressive approach is because they are formulating their reply while the other person is still speaking.
  4. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Considering the situation from another position can provide the information you need to assert yourself without being defensive.
  5. Do not bottle it up.  Write in a journal, talk out the situation with an objective third-party, or be honest about your feelings with the person prompting the aggressive behavior.

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The mantra for today’s post is basically to think before reacting.  Taking a complete step back is not always an option; however, a deep breath and asking for a minute to collect your thoughts is worth avoiding reactions that cannot be taken back.

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