And what do they mean?
What behaviours do they see to make them say that and what’s the difference?
I’d describe being assertive as the ability to state your case or point of view in a way that means you are heard while still being in a position to hear what the other person has to say.
On this basis I would say being unassertive is not being able to state your case at all and being aggressive is being able to state your case but not listening to what the other person has to say.
So, having defined the three, I think (whoever you are) that you are probably all three! It depends … on who you are talking to and the situation you are in!
Let me explain …
If you are feeling emotional it is hard to be assertive. In that instance you are likely to turn the emotion onto the person you are speaking to and speak out in anger or turn it in on yourself and speak to yourself in anger. Either way you are unlikely to be listening to the other person.
If you are in a burning building and are the fire warden you might be aggressive and rightly so! I don’t want you to discuss the right route out with me … listening to my point of view … I want you to clearly and loudly direct me out of the building.
If you are speaking to someone who reminds you of a particularly aggressive teacher you might find yourself reverting back to how you were as a child and find it hard to be assertive in the conversation.
And, of course, some people don’t like conflict and will try to avoid it. When it looks like there might be conflict, they will back down or not state their case or point of view in the first place.
However, although the situation and other person will help to determine your behaviour there are some things you can do to be more assertive more of the time, which usually is going to bring a better outcome for you.
Firstly … remember to breath. Deep breaths in and longer breaths out will help to control your emotions. If you can’t, in the moment, try to remove yourself from the situation until you are calmer. Ask for a 5-minute break … you will probably both benefit from the time out.
Secondly, try to minimise future conflict. If you are asking someone to do something for you ALWAYS give your ‘why’ and if someone is asking you to do something, ask them for their ‘why’ before they leave. So often you are asked to do something and told when you need to do it by but not told why this is important.
Let’s face it, if you come and tell me to get out of the building immediately, I’m more likely to respond positively if you tell me there’s a fire!
Equally, if you want me to copy some documents before the end of the day it’s possible, I might think that first thing tomorrow will be OK. Unless of course you have told me that you need to pack the documents in with other collateral that evening for despatch at 8am. In the latter case I will understand the urgency and am more likely to prioritise my work so I can deliver the documents when required.
The lack of a ‘why’ creates unnecessary conflict.
Do you have tip for being more assertive or for removing conflict from your day? Do let me know in the comments below.