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Assertion Without Aggression: Seven Strategies

Source | | Harold Neal

To be sure, we all like to get our way when we deal with other people, especially if the stakes are personally important to us. This is normal – I mean, who likes to lose? Nonetheless, most of us are reasonable human beings who will usually play by the rules and interact with one another in what most would consider being a “normal” way.

Yes, we’ve all known people who were more openly aggressive than others in trying to get their way in winning discussions or achieving their objectives, but there remains a lingering question: Did their open aggression work well for them in the long run? Maybe there was a short-term “win” but my guess is that this kind of behavior cannot last for very long. 

How can you be assertive in your objectives and “win” over the long term (or even for the moment) without becoming aggressive?

In any case, what will aggression do for you? Decrease your chances of achieving your objectives? Probably. Whether your objective is to prevail in a debate, or succeed in requesting help from someone, aggression is probably not a good tactic.

Let’s take a look at some suggestions offered by the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association of the UK (CABA), “Seven Ways to Be More Assertive Without Being Aggressive.”


1. Be Clear: One way to ensure that you do not get what you want, or to ensure that you are not properly understood, is to avoid coming to the point. Yes, we all want to be diplomatic and we sometimes try to work around the issue by steering clear of the direct approach, especially if some of our messages is not altogether pleasant. However, allowing your interlocutors to interpret for themselves what you are trying to say will often lead them to the wrong conclusion, thus thwarting your desired result. Instead, be more assertive without being aggressive: State your position clearly, and respond politely but firmly to any points that could be misinterpreted. There is never a reason (at least not a productive reason) to be rude or threatening, so making yourself understood with a smile (or at least a neutral demeanor) will more often than not help your interlocutors see what you want without giving offense.

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