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Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

You can stand up for yourself without resorting to bullying.

No one sets out to be a doormat. Yet some people are chronically passive, always putting other’s needs before their own. These are the folks who end up babysitting for an acquaintance instead of doing what they want to do. The good news is people can learn to ask for the things they want whenever and where ever they want and not end up in a “Correctional Orange Jumpsuit” or a white-hug-yourself-jacket.

All of us have said yes to something we didn’t really want to do. In that moment, just saying “No” has certain perks. After all, dropping your plans to help means not only avoiding conflict but also avoiding letting anyone down. You get to be the hero! But over time, being unable to express what you want is a recipe for long-lasting unhappiness, because your needs always end up on the back burner.


Excessively agreeable types aren’t the only ones who can benefit from learning to be assertive. Overly hostile people benefit, too. 

Aggressiveness is sometimes mistaken for assertiveness, but they are different. It’s one thing to stand up for yourself, and quite another to bully others to get your way.

Here’s the difference between aggression and assertiveness. When there’s a difference of opinion, a hostile, aggressive person may lose their temper and choose to calling people names to end the discussion. But assertive people can stand up for themselves without tearing down anyone else. They might say, “I can see why your idea has benefits, but here’s how I think we should proceed.”

Randy J. Paterson, a psychologist who wrote “The Assertiveness Workbook,” explained that “If you take an aggressive posture, you’re allowed on stage and your mission is to get everyone else off.” By contrast, assertive people don’t mind sharing the stage. They can be pleasant even as they express an unpopular opinion.

In short, assertiveness is not a license to be rude, but a way for people to express themselves while being respectful to others.

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