Aggressive behavior and assertive behavior are quite different ways to dealing with confrontation, that both have different motivating factors and result in very different consequences. First, assertive behavior tends to be a strong positive form of self-expression, whereas aggression tends to be a negative, “force-for-force” kind of behavior. Also, assertive behavior is usually rooted in social reinforcement, while aggressive behavior isn’t; such as, shouting at someone because they don’t agree with you or threatening to hurt someone if they do something you don’t like… assertive behavior, however, is often the most desired of the two kinds of behavior. The problem with this, however, is that often aggressive behavior is not motivated by social reinforcement, but by feelings of power and dominance.
This difference between the two types of behavior makes it important for people to understand their own limits and where the line is drawn between them. There are some people who can tolerate a little bit of assertiveness and have no problem with it, even encouraged it, while there are other people who find assertiveness to be intrusive, and in some cases even harmful. The good news is that there are some effective techniques for diffusing the aggressive/aggressive behavior without necessarily resorting to violence. Below are some common techniques for asserting your boundaries without getting into the kind of trouble that might otherwise follow:
* Clarify your boundaries – Before attempting to establish any sort of communication with anyone, first be clear about what you hope to gain from communicating with them and how you expect things to go down. Once you have made these clear distinctions, then you can start to discuss things in a more realistic way, working to get your ideas across in a clear and reasonable manner. A good way to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of by your partner or any other member of the relationship is to be assertive when communicating. However, if you do feel the need to be assertive in a certain situation, use a communication skill that will make it clear that what you want is a different result, such as “I would like to know more about the subject but I really need to be sure before sharing anything with you” or “please explain more about how you mean to proceed with this.”
* Develop interpersonal skills – Effective assertiveness training should focus on how to communicate your needs and feelings in a reasonable and assertive manner. It also teaches how to deal with feeling in a vulnerable state and how to express those feelings in a supportive way. This type of training is especially useful when your relationship has become confrontational and communication is becoming difficult. You will learn to develop your interpersonal skills through this program and you will learn how to help your partner or any other person who needs your assistance in a difficult situation. Through the interpersonal learning process, you will discover how to express yourself more constructively and you will understand the roots of your fears and how to find productive ways of dealing with them.
* Give assertive behavior – When you feel as though you are being taken advantage of, or pushed around, or when you feel your needs and feelings are not being met, learn how to assertively respond. Communication skills include assertiveness: remaining calm and assertively communicating your needs and feelings. In fact, one effective technique is to respond to an invitation to speak by asking “what’s your point?” rather than “how may I help you?” This kind of passive-aggressive greeting shows that you are interested in the person’s thoughts and opinions, but not particularly focused on exacting revenge. If you do this often, others will begin to perceive you as assertive and you will come across as less aggressive.
It is important to understand that there are many people who fit both descriptions of an assertive person and of a passive-aggressive person. While there is nothing wrong with being one of these kinds of people, it can often be counterproductive to practice being one in an environment where assertiveness training is needed. Assertiveness training is about learning to be confident and direct in making decisions and controlling behavior. And so you may want to avoid situations that would challenge your assertiveness, such as tests, interviews, meetings and confrontations unless you feel as though your personality is working properly enough to handle them. So the next time you find yourself feeling assertive or defensive, try practicing assertiveness training!