Aggressive Versus Assertive Communication

Drawing the line between being aggressive and being assertive can be difficult. In the workplace, however, employees and managers working to advance themselves in business need to understand the difference.

Assertiveness can be admired. Being assertive means being clear and forthright about views and needs and presenting them confidently and directly. People who are assertive can not only state a point of view but also are willing to elaborate an idea when asked and willing to be challenged to further to get to a solution ultimately.

An assertive person isn’t looking to “win.” Instead, he or she looks for win/win results in interactions. In this way, an assertive person shows respect for others while firmly standing his or her own ground. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. People who are assertive can say “yes” when one means “yes” and clearly stating “no” when “no” is meant.

On the other hand, aggressiveness is confrontational, possibly belligerent, hostile, or violent toward another person. When someone is aggressive, he or she is ready to attack. This is not a productive situation because people who slip into an aggressive mode will make the interaction a win/lose result regardless of relevance.

Being aggressive demonstrates a lack of respect for the other person or people and can present itself as:

  • Yelling
  • Cursing
  • Throwing things
  • Lack of listening

Aggressiveness is not characteristic of good leadership. In fact, being aggressive is often hurtful and damaging to relationships. In the workplace, it’s important to build and cultivate good relationships, not destroy them.

This is why an assertive person showcases emotional intelligence. He or she is in control of emotions, grounded in self-confidence, and communicates effectively.