top of page
  • kristin412

Do You Confuse Assertiveness with Aggressiveness?

Dear Young Professional,

I find a lot of people get confused with the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. This confusion is one reason people avoid conflict. They don’t want to be appear “aggressive”, I mean who would risk that if you care about relationships right?

However, the inability to effectively and timely address conflict can hold you back, or worse get yourself walked on by others. This is true in all types of relationships; business, friendships and family.

Let me share with you MY definition of assertiveness and see if you have an issue.

ASSERTIVENESS: The ability to stand up for your own rights, while respecting the rights of others.

Respecting yourself and others, it’s that simple. Until you try it when emotions, hierarchy, history and personal experiences weigh in. Fear often is the culprit leading to avoidance. My question to you is, “If you aren’t willing to stand up for your rights, why should others?”

Before I share more on how to hone your assertiveness skills, let’s take a quick look at the relationship to aggressiveness and its definition.

AGGRESSIVENESS: Actions (direct or indirect) rooted in hostile or sometimes violent behaviors.

It’s important to note that assertiveness cannot always combat someone’s aggressiveness. When working through conflict, aggressive behavior needs to be tempered before a resolution can occur. Think of it as “time-off” to let tensions ease. If a person’s norm is an aggressive nature, removal from the situation is the best remedy.

So how can you frame your communications to be assertive respecting the rights of both parties? The tool for keeping a message on track is the “I” Tool. This simple 3 step framework will allow you to keep the message mutually respectful.

Step 1: “When you [fill in the blank]”

Step 2: “I feel/felt [fill in the blank]”

Step 3: “Would you please [fill in the blank]”

Let’s assume you have a situation at work where a colleague gives immediate feedback to you in meetings using a critical tone. How would you apply the model?

Step 1: “When you’re criticizing me in a group”

Step 2: “I feel undermined making it difficult to be effective”

Step 3: “Would you please provide me with your feedback in private”

In this example the mutual respect is shown by you asserting your rights to be effective while observing the rights of your colleague to provide feedback.

This takes practice! Be patient with yourself, in time it will be second nature. I want to hear how it’s going and where you remained challenge. Send me your thoughts, questions and success stories at

Warmly, Aunt Kris

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page