Many times in my corporate career I was accused of being aggressive, or too aggressive, pff, what a joke! Annoyingly in the earlier parts of my career I didn’t have the words to rebuke these comments, so I just retreated to my box and shut my mouth, thinking ‘they must be right, I’d better pull my head in’.
BUT as I know now, they were wrong. I may not have been as articulate as I wanted to be due to a lack of experience, and may have been a bit more direct than I am today due to a passion for getting a great outcome – despite these shortcomings, they were WRONG, I was not being aggressive, I was, and remain assertive in my approach.
By the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition, someone who is aggressive is determined to win or succeed and using forceful action to do this. In contrast, someone who is assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.
I’d just like to adjust this slightly to say what they “do or don’t want or believe”.
If you know the difference between these two, you should never be put in a box again. Assertiveness gets the job done, but as a lot of people prefer to dance around uncomfortable conversations rather than walk right up to them and address them, this can be challenging for them, so you’ll need to be patient.
If anyone accuses you of being aggressive, decide for yourself if it’s true, if it’s not, be clear with them, “Apologies that you feel I am coming on strong, this is not personal, my goal is to be assertive so it’s clear what I’m seeking from this discussion/situation. Let’s reset, tell me about your perspective on the topic/situation. I want to understand where we are aligned and what requires further discussion so we can find a way forward (or not).”
The key is to truly listen to their response, be open to taking the conversation a bit slower, at their pace, but not to retreat. Sometimes our brains work faster than our mouths, so it is important to see things from the other person’s perspective, and perhaps take a step back, to be able to progress.
In readiness for the above, I encourage you to try and find one way to be a little more assertive every day – confidently say things like:
- “No, thank you, I don’t want that, but you might find that would be good for xxxx.”
- “What I’d really like is xxxx, what can I do to help make that happen?”
- “If you were in my position, would you think that was fair (or reasonable)?”
By practicing this every day you’ll hear yourself becoming more assertive little by little, building your confidence by seeing how people react, as you find the words / phrases that work for you.
Good luck! Cheers Sam