AGGRESSIVENESS: An assertive tone gone wrong?

AGGRESSIVENESS: An assertive tone gone wrong?

We all communicate, either verbally or non-verbally. All of our communication have tones through which they are conveyed and oftentimes, these tones determine how our communicatees respond.

According to the Mayo clinic, assertiveness is a core communication skill that helps to control anger and stress. However, in our attempts to be assertive, do we border on rudeness? It is important to know that whenever an assertive tone is employed at an inappropriate place or time, it translates into aggression.

How then do we distinguish assertion from aggression?

The key is to look beyond the surface. Although at first glance, they appear similar as both are geared towards influencing the behaviour of another individual, certain key characteristics distinguish both tones of communication.

While an assertive tone is marked by honesty, fairness, and directness, an aggressive tone denies the right of others, lacks empathy and seeks to win at all costs. Assertiveness is essential; it is the ability to express our emotions in an open, honest and direct way while still respecting the rights of others. An assertive individual perceives others as his/her equals and values the fair exchange of ideas, as an all-win situation is his goal. Conversely, the aggressive individual perceives others to be beneath him, insults and damages the self-esteem of other individuals.

With such differences in approach and goals, it is obvious that these tones cannot achieve the same results. The responses that they precipitate are far apart. Aggression ensures that walls are erected and situations escalated. It breeds resentment as communicatees feel disrespected. Assertiveness, on the other hand, enhances relationships and builds team spirit, as others feel valued and respected; it not only builds the communicatees but also increases the self-esteem of the communicator while also ensuring that he/she is not taken advantage of.

In the work environment, it has been statistically proven that an assertive leader achieves much better solutions than an aggressive one because, while aggressiveness will get the job done, it will leave hurts behind. Being assertive may sometimes, also hurt others as it requires that you ask for what you want, without assuming that people already know it. This particular feature of assertiveness propels many persons, especially people-pleasers, into another sphere of communication — the passive communication tone.

The passive tone which is often adopted in order not to be viewed as selfish is an extremely detrimental stance as the individual begins to value themselves less than others. As opined by

Shannon Alder, “There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself, while you may not win every battle, everyone will know what you stood for.” Balance is, therefore, the key; the important thing is to assert our opinions respectfully.

‘I’ statements are particularly important when adopting the assertive tone. This is because they communicate ownership and do not apportion blames. An example is saying, ‘I do not think you are correct’ instead of ‘You are wrong.’

Although you cannot please everyone and are not necessarily responsible for their feelings, you must communicate from a balanced perspective; neither look down on yourself nor others, instead communicate empathically.

Ultimately, remember that “how you elect to speak and when you speak is more important than what you say.”

ARTICLE SUMMARY (Assertiveness (1), Aggressiveness (2), Passiveness (3)

Speaks Openly (1)

Interrupts (2)

Fearful (3)
Body Language

Relaxed & Open (1)

Rigid & Invasive (2)

Withdrawn (3)
Human Relations

Diplomatic (1)

Selfish (2)

Agrees with others at own expense (3)

Conversational (1)

Loud (2)

Soft (3)
Team Behaviour

Participatory (1)

Controlling (2)

Isolated (3)
Eye contact

Good/Direct (1)

Intimidating glare (2)

Little/None (3)
Self Value

Equal to others (1)

Better than others (2)

Less than others (3)

Attains goal with minimal/no alienation (1)

Attains goals but creates resentment (2)

Does not attain any goals (3)


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