How to Perfect the Balance Between Aggression and Assertiveness
Being assertive is good for your career, your team, and your results. It’s the inner force that drives you to suggest new ideas, offer constructive criticism, politely push back when your coworker isn’t holding up their end of the project, keep a meeting from going too long, and dissent from the group when you think the popular opinion isn’t wise.
Unfortunately, assertiveness can easily cross the line into aggressiveness—and the latter definitely isn’t good for you, your colleagues, or your performance.
How can you tell when you’re acting self-assured versus like a jerk? Follow the guidelines for these three major categories of work behavior.
If you refuse to compromise, you’re probably straying into aggressive territory. Aggressive personalities don’t accommodate others’ suggestions or requests because they (mistakenly) believe their ideas and agenda take priority.
For example, suppose you’re discussing a project with two team members. When they say, “Let’s try X,” or “Y might be a good approach,” do you immediately point out the flaws in their plans, or come up with reasons why your strategy is better?
That’s aggressive—and it won’t persuade your coworkers to follow you.
An assertive response, on the other hand, might sound like this:
“Sarah, I like your proposal to do X. That’s really smart. And Kavi, great idea on Y. What if we merged those together and ended up with Z?”
2. Staying Professional
It’s crucial to remain professional and unemotional. Aggressive people often lash out at their colleagues, which not only harms their relationships but makes them seem less competent.
To give you an idea, imagine your manager says the deadline for a major deliverable has been moved up two weeks. You’re understandably upset; after all, it was already tight, and you’ll need to work overtime to meet the new date.
Instead of getting angry, we recommend presenting the logical reasons her decision is problematic:
“I can make that deadline, but I will have to sacrifice these X things. Are you comfortable with that? Is there any way we can push the deadline up by one week rather than two?”
3. Meeting Deadlines
Assertive people calmly stick up for themselves when aggressive people attack them. The trick? Don’t mirror their behavior, as that will make you just as bad. Instead, neutralize it.
To illustrate, say someone starts talking over you in a meeting. The first time you let it go. The second time, rather than raising your voice or becoming angry, say, “So-and-so, that sounds like an interesting point. Please let me finish my comment, then you can tell us more.”
This response will make it clear they can’t interrupt you—without creating any bad blood.
Walking the line between self-assured and selfish, confident and pushy, firm and inflexible isn’t easy. However, by sticking to these guardrails, you’ll strike the right note.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the eighth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 27 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit www.sigconsult.com.