Are You Assertive or Aggressive?

February 21, 2018 by  

There is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive and it depends upon your approach.
Aggressive behavior will not usually get you what you want as it offends others. Aggressive people are the blaming finger pointers who insult and aggravate others by demeaning them in nasty ways. This usually does not result in a good outcome and often exacerbates the situation.
It is better when you feel that you have been offended or disrespected, that you do it in an assertive manner……meaning have the difficult conversation in an honest, calm, and respectful way. That does not mean that the person will easily accept what you have to say, as you are criticizing them, however, you will have a much better chance for a win/win outcome with this strategy.

Is it hard to have such confrontational conversations……however, unless they are a mind reader, the person who offended you may have no idea that they did so and anyway, you are the one walking around with the stomach ache. Therefore it is your responsibility to try to rectify the situation by having that difficult conversation. In addition, you must also realize that having that conversation once may not solve the issue and you may have to screw up your courage more than once in order to obtain a change in behavior. Nonetheless, if you do not tell them you are enabling that behavior and they will very likely continue it. This sort of issue could also be when a colleague does not follow directions or comply with the company policy, which could be having an effect on the productivity of the project the team is working on.
In addition, remember it is not a good idea to confront the person immediately after the event occurs as you will not likely be able to remain calm and respectful. It is better to calm yourself down and make a plan for what you will say, how you will answer to their retorts while keeping your cool and try to anticipate what might happen so you can prepare yourself for how you will react. However, if you wait too long, because it was something that bothered you and not the person who did it, they will likely not recall the incident. So try to prepare to speak with them in a day or so, if you can.

Here is a simple format you can use for this difficult conversation:
1. Describe:
Describe the situation objectively, without using judgment words.
2. Result:
Explain what happens because of that behavior.
3. Request:
Make a polite, specific request as to what you would prefer to happen.

Realize that the person may not be happy with what you are saying and may argue or get nasty. If that happens you should just say you understand why they may feel that way, however, you brought this up as you do work together and wanted to make sure that you could continue to do that in comfort. You might also let them know that it is affecting others and that you are sure that was not their intention. If they stay angry or later give you the cold shoulder, you should let them know that you were sincerely hoping that this could be solved amicably so that you could maintain a cordial relationship. In the end, we cannot make people do things they do not want to do and if a person does not want to change their behavior there may not be much we can do other than this…….if you wish to offer a consequence, such as…..”I really do not want to go to the HR manager or our manager about this as I was hoping we could just work it out ourselves. However, if that is not going to work, I guess I will have to escalate this to them. Then, if you must do that, do it!

This is definitely not an easy thing to do, and many people will do almost anything to avoid having a difficult conversation, nonetheless, conflict does not disappear on its own and if it is not dealt with it can erode morale in a workplace, so better to “bite the bullet” and deal with it.
In the end, remember to stay positive, polite, calm, and honest whenever having such an exchange and be very aware of your body language. In other words, pay attention to your tone of voice, the volume of your voice, your stance, the look on your face as well as your gestures. Because if these do not match and reinforce the respectful words you are using, they will likely obliterate them and the person will feel that you are attacking them and they will very likely just want to attack you back.
Being assertive is not an easy task, however, if you practice it you will get better at it and have less conflict and stress in your life.

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