We hear a lot about assertiveness, but how is assertiveness different from aggression? The two behaviors are really almost polar opposites. Aggressiveness can make people dislike you, but assertiveness often makes people like and respect you more!
In fact, assertiveness is really about gaining the goodwill and liking of others. After all, if someone likes and respects you, they will tend to be more mindful of your needs and desires than they would be otherwise. Therefore, by establishing friendly and cordial relations with others, you will have already won half the battle before you begin: when you do need to assert yourself, it will be easier to remain on good terms with others.
Shy people may have a particular need to learn assertiveness skills. Since shy people may seem aloof, unfriendly, or an interesting to others, they may have a harder time gaining the respect and goodwill of others quickly. People may not be as inclined to keep the needs and concerns of the quiet person in consideration as quickly as the concerns of the outgoing, extroverted type.
In addition, since shy people are more likely to be seen as somewhat timid or even meek, people who are truly aggressive may be more inclined to try to take or gain the advantage over them than they would with those who seem more self-assured.
In fact, we could say that two important aspects for assertiveness are cordiality and cheerfulness. This is the answer to the question “how is assertiveness different from aggression?”
The attributes of cordiality and cheerfulness are disarming: people are more likely to comply with the wishes of those who ask something of them in a genuinely friendly way. People who seem cheerful and friendly are also more easily able to turn down a request for a favor without arousing resentment.
Assertiveness does not mean displaying a gruff, snarling demeanor. That’s aggressiveness. Assertiveness means standing up for your interests calmly and effectively, in a way that is most likely to elicit the desired behaviors from others.
People respect those who stand up for their rights in a confident, friendly way. So, being cheerfully assertive actually means being more likely to maintain the goodwill of others. Assertiveness means saving face, while allowing others to save face as well.
In short, the answer to “how is assertiveness different from aggression?” is simple. Assertiveness means that everyone wins and nobody loses. Other people respect you more and you respect yourself more.