Most people recognize the importance of being assertive, especially in professional settings like the marketing department or manufacturing plant. Simply put, assertiveness means being able to stand up for yourself and being able to express your thoughts, feelings and beliefs confidently without overstepping on the rights or self-esteem of other people. It also involves knowing how to react properly towards people who don’t agree with you.
That being said, some managers may ask themselves, “how do I draw the line between being assertive and being aggressive?” This is an important question because being assertive and being aggressive can often be confused. One may be tempted to think that the two are fairly equivalent in nature because on the surface, they seem to produce the same results. For instance, both assertiveness and aggressiveness can result in other people agreeing to one’s orders or desires. In reality, however, their effects can’t be more different.
An assertive manager may be considered by others as a good leader or someone who deserves respect because that person also respects their needs and desires. On the other hand, people around an aggressive individual often agree to that person’s wishes only because they want to avoid the stress of toxic interactions. You’ve probably encountered a few of these highly aggressive people during the course of your career or even in your personal relationships. Such individuals can extinguish someone else’s morale or confidence by their mere presence.
Constantly succumbing to the temptation of being aggressive can permanently put you at loggerheads with the people you are supposed to be building good relationships with. Remember that receivers of aggressive behavior are often left wondering what he or she did to deserve such treatment. This often leads to feelings of resentment, mistrust, and anger.
There are professional courses out there that can help you develop assertiveness and avoid aggressiveness, but there are also things that you can do on your own to cultivate the former and avoid the latter. The first order of business is knowing how to draw the line between the two. Here are a few tips on how to do this.
Always take others’ feelings and sense of self-worth into consideration
Aggressive behavior can be exhibited in many ways. These include ignoring someone while they are speaking, commanding someone to finish a task without regard for that person’s schedule, or simply causing distress to others because of one’s rude behavior. The old aphorism of putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a good way to determine if you are already stepping the line. Don’t treat others in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated yourself.
Develop your emotional intelligence
In order to avoid confusing assertiveness with aggressiveness, you could try developing your emotional radar. Aside from the previous point of always taking other people’s feelings into consideration. This should be done in person and with employee survey answers. Then, you can also nurture habits that allow you to positively approach other people. For instance, always make it a point to listen to what your colleagues have to say instead of just unduly shutting them down. Another one is considering if your timing is right when it comes to talking about a problematic issue. Remember to be more sensitive about how your behavior affects other people. With good emotional radar, you’ll be able to evaluate how others really feel.
If you you’re dealing with a difficult person, try not to start your conversations with the word “you” and then following it up with a negative judgment because this puts the other person on the defensive. As an alternative, try to preface your statement with the words “I feel” and then explaining why you feel this way in this particular situation.
Avoid taking a passive stance
Although you always need to consider other people’s feelings and desires, you should also be wary about doing the opposite: taking a passive stance in professional interactions. Many people don’t like the idea of being disliked by colleagues so they end up placing a greater emphasis on the feelings and desires of others over their own. However, being assertive also calls for acting in your own best interests. It means expressing yourself in a straightforward and reasonable way so that you won’t look timid and other people will not treat you as a weak pushover.
The workplace doesn’t have to be a dog-eat-dog world nor a place where you can’t speak your mind freely. Embracing an assertive attitude instead of an aggressive or passive one empowers you so that you can better navigate the intricacies of the professional world.
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