For many people, the distinction between being aggressive or assertive is not the actual behavior but the person who does it.
How we feel about this behavior (assertive or aggressive) is not always consistent. Often, our relationships with others are based on cultural stereotypes and end up reflecting prejudices (unconscious or conscious).
Emilie Arie, founder and CEO of Bossed Up (an organization made up of women and marginalized people), decided to create the respective company to fight and defend the life and professional career she wanted. Emilie shared the importance of understanding what assertiveness is and how it can be useful for everyone.
What does it mean to be assertive and non-aggressive
Like so many women, Emilie was characterized as being aggressive when she really wanted to be assertive. Both assertiveness and aggressiveness can be related to zeal for individual or collective needs and rights, however, the difference is that assertiveness takes others into account.
Aggressive behavior can seem much calmer than assertive behavior. The CEO uses an example to explain the difference between the two concepts: leaving a note/ticket to a roommate who hasn’t tidied up the kitchen, for example, may seem soft, however, the note doesn’t allow for a roommate’s response, causing it to translate into aggressive action.
The fact that we approach someone directly may seem like an act that will generate more conflict, however, it provides an opportunity for the other to respond. In the example shown above, the roommate may have had an emergency, be late, or simply be lazy, but without their response, we won’t know why they left the kitchen in disarray. Emilie says that “sometimes we can be aggressive just to avoid conflict. Leadership behavior and human behavior must be assertive when it needs to be heard, but allow others to respond.”
The role of gender and assertiveness
There is indeed a difference between gender and assertiveness. There are discrepancies between men and women, but also in the racial difference. Various surveys and studies have revealed that people judge behavior based on the person in front of them, not the behavior itself. For example, a white male who is assertive will be seen positively, however, the same behavior performed by a woman or a person of a different race may be seen as aggressive and, simultaneously, negatively connoted.
We are all aggressive at times (it is human nature), however, striking a balance between aggressiveness and assertiveness is a long way to go. Although cultural prejudices have been known to be problematic for a long time, they still persist and have only recently begun to change significantly.
The hidden benefits of assertiveness
Many of us believe that the benefit of assertiveness is to get more opportunities to get what you want, however, consider that assertive behavior creates high levels of stress, which generally does not happen. Assertive behavior usually generates reduced levels of stress, whether in a work context, in a social group or in a personal relationship. Stress levels can actually increase and be significant if your needs are not taken into account.
In short, being assertive is being able to defend your needs but in order to make room for the needs of other people, whether at work or at home.
Assertiveness is one of the most important communication tools!
Original article: The Power Of Assertiveness And How It Can Change Your Life