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Are You Assertive or Aggressive?
By JoJo Tabares
Do you have something to say but are afraid it won't be taken well? Would you like to present a different opinion, but are you afraid to rock the boat? Some people think assertiveness and aggressiveness are interchangeable. Others think they're being assertive, when in fact they're being rude. According to Webster's Dictionary, aggressive means "easily provoked to fight".
Assertive means "affirming confidently". In practical terms, being assertive means that you appear self-assured and being aggressive communicates an arrogant and angry attitude.
Skillful assertiveness goes hand in hand with a person's confidence, leadership and overall effectiveness. Leaders can use assertiveness to reduce confusion and inefficiencies caused by misunderstandings and crossed wires by being clear when communicating goals/ideas and by motivating others to get behind their ideas.
Being assertive with your friends, family and business associates can result in an improved self-image, increased happiness and more success! So why isn't everyone assertive? People report that they are afraid to come off as aggressive or simply lack the confidence needed to be a bit bold. God gives each one of us something to say and here are some tips that can help:
- Ask yourself if you are sharing this information as an exchange of ideas, to get further a cause you really believe in or just to make yourself look good. If there is no other purpose in being assertive other than to put someone else down, then as your mother always taught you: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!
- Sometimes it is simply our perception of what will happen if we speak our mind that is based on fear and not grounded in reality. If you simply state your beliefs calmly and clearly with honesty and sincerity, most people will understand.
- Know your audience and tailor your communication to the beliefs of the group you are addressing, especially if you are talking about a sensitive issue like religion or politics. If you are talking to a group of Republicans, you could be a bit more bold in making your case for the Republican candidate than you could be if you were speaking to a group who were predominantly Democrats.
- If you are talking to a group of people who don't share your beliefs, preface your statements by saying something like..."I believe..." instead of "Everyone knows...". One is giving your honest opinion and could be backed up with facts and examples while the other is accusatory and aggressive in nature.
- Substitute empty nodding and smiling that might be more comfortable but may be interpreted as agreement with the other side with a statement like "I see it another way...". This statement will be seen as an honest disagreement that may spark a discussion. Don't say "You're WRONG!" because everything after these words will fall on deaf ears! Maybe even yours because you will most likely be inundated with loud and heated debate material!
- If something seems a bit too far fetched, ask the speaker to clarify his statements. "I am not sure exactly what you mean." This is a request for more information for the purpose of further understanding. As the person explains his view, you may find that you don't agree or you may find that you now understand more where he is coming from. The more you know about a person's views, the better prepared you will be to assert yours.
- Don't exaggerate! "You always do this!." will put the listener on the defensive because he feels as if he has been attacked. Be clear and specific, say something like "I need the item by Friday at noon." instead of "I need that ASAP!".
- Never assume! Ask questions. Confirm details. Some people will hear a demand and be too afraid to cross the other person so they will not let on that they can't have the product to you by Saturday. Tell them that you need it by Saturday and ask if they can deliver it by then. When you make arrangements with a someone, confirm the date, time and any other details to make sure you both have it clear what each is expecting. Sometimes errors are caught in confirmation that would have lead to a miscommunication too late to remedy the situation. Mary says "I'll see you at 12pm on Friday for lunch" but Susan heard 2pm on Friday. Or perhaps Mary said 12pm but meant 2pm. When you confirm the details, both parties get a chance to clarify the details.
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