Assertiveness Controls Your Actions, Aggressiveness Controls Others

Have you ever wanted to be more assertive and get what you want, but worried that you will end up being a jerk? Here’s a simple guide to understanding the difference: If you only control your own actions, you are assertive. If you try to control someone else, you become aggressive.

So says Randy J. Peterson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. The line between assertiveness and aggressiveness can be blurry, but usually the difference comes down to whether you want to control other people or just want to have some level of control over your own life. The latter is completely natural for everyone:

When we are assertive, we are able to honestly acknowledge our own thoughts and desires without expecting others to automatically give in to us. We show respect for the feelings and opinions of others without necessarily accepting their opinions or doing what they expect or demand. This does not mean that we become inattentive to the desires of others. We listen to their desires and expectations, and then decide whether to agree with them or not. We could do this even if we preferred to do something else. But this is our choice. Whenever we walk with others, we make that decision anyway. But we can often feel helpless because we forget that we are under our own control.

The alternative to controlling your actions is passivity. Passive people often let others make decisions for them, or make them when someone undermines everything you do . It’s easy to get tired of being passive and go too far to become aggressive (or passive-aggressive, which actually means being aggressive in a sneaky way, avoiding the consequences of direct aggression). However, if you can figure out where self-control ends and control over someone else begins, you can do a decent job by remaining firmly in a safe and assertive area.

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