3 Tips To Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
Updated: Oct 21
Being assertive helps you control stress and improve your coping skills. Among other benefits, being assertive also helps boost your self-worth and earns you the respect of others.
The prospect of being more assertive intimidates many people. It’s important to note that assertiveness is not the same thing as aggressiveness. It’s also different from passive-aggressiveness. Aggressiveness disrespects another person’s right to an opinion or their own beliefs. Passive aggressiveness is often a negative coping mechanism. It’s usually the result of someone who fears using their power will result in a negative outcome.
Assertiveness is the ability to own your power, express yourself clearly, stand up for your perspective of the world, all while maintaining a respectful tone.
3 Tips To Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive
Assertiveness allows you to have tough conversations respectfully and compassionately while still disagreeing with or declining an offer from another person. These three tips can help you practice being assertive:
This is a comfortable place to start practicing assertiveness for many people. It feels safe because instead of taking a hard stance, you can focus on thinking win-win. Assertiveness is a tool to protect your boundaries, but it also requires teamwork. Whether it's discussing home office hours with your spouse or delegating tasks for a team project among yourself and your co-workers.
When faced with a situation where you need to assert a boundary, think about how you and the other person can approach things differently. As an example, if you face a schedule change at work and you need different accommodations, start by finding out why your supervisor changed the schedule.. Understanding their needs allows you to open up a dialogue about how you can make a change that works for both of you.
Make time for your emotions
When faced with a potential conflict, many people find they become angry or frustrated. This is normal, and what you feel at that moment is valid. You are allowed to experience and process that anger and frustration. If you know about a difficult situation ahead of time, you can take a moment to write down how you feel. These can be brief bullet points or an entire page of cohesive thought. Either way, working through these emotions before a confrontation allows you to order your thoughts and better prepare to vocalize them.
To be assertive, you need to be calm. If you find yourself in a difficult situation that you don’t feel ready to deal with, extract yourself. It’s okay to remove yourself from a situation with a polite, “Excuse me for a moment.”
In a difficult situation, the priority is finding common ground, not fault. Avoiding accusations also avoids other people feeling defensive or getting reactive. Conflict or tough conversations are a good time to remember ‘I’ statements. Some examples are:
“I’m feeling frustrated with all this,” as opposed to, “You’re frustrating me.”
“I disagree,” as opposed to, “You’re wrong.”
Using ‘I’ statements allows you to give voice to your opinions without others feeling attacked. It also helps you take ownership of your power. By using ‘I’ statements, you take ownership of your emotions, your opinions, and your perspective instead of giving that over to others by using ‘you’ statements.
These coping mechanisms take time and practice to develop. You can speak with a professional therapist about more ways you can be assertive without being aggressive. We can find the coping strategies that work best for you and your specific situation. You can take control of your power in a way that feels right to you and is respectful to the people around you.