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Assertiveness vs. Aggression in the Workplace

By Sonya Buck,


From birth to the inevitable, we are always learning. Improving communication is a great way to assist with workplace relationships.


We all know there is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive and if you get it right, it can assist in both the workplace and in your personal life.


Consider the following tips on the path to becoming assertive:

  • Assertive people seek to win - win scenarios which give everyone the desired outcomes. They are able to contribute their desires and beliefs and understand their solution may not be the one that is chosen.
  • You need to ensure everyone’s contributions are valued and instead of criticising, you might like to add to their ideas and take them to the next level.
  • Emotion needs to be removed from any workplace situation. That’s just one way to ensure you to don’t escalate into aggression. Remain calm.
  • Being assertive requires you to be a good listener. Make sure you take the time listen to someone’s point of view, without jumping in and saying what you think.
  • Validate people’s feelings, even though you don’t need to necessarily agree with their point of view.
  • Use the appropriate body language when communicating. Don’t fidget, talk too fast, let your voice shake or speak too quietly. Ensure you make eye contact. This might take some practice.
  • If you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to voice it.
  • Never raise your voice, again you would have tipped into aggression. People will just focus on the yelling and won’t consider your point of view.
  • Believe that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
  • Do say what's on your mind, but do it in a way that protects the other person's feelings.
  • Be prepared to say NO instead of agreeing to everything. Remember you can’t please everyone. At work, offer alternative solutions or communicate why you won’t be able to complete the request in the time given.
  • Assertiveness is closely linked to confidence. Become confident in your skills, abilities, and knowledge.
  • If asking the boss for a pay raise, ensure you can communicate the value you have added to the workplace. If the answer is no, ask what you need to learn or accomplish to get a positive outcome next time.

The old adage ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ is very true and is just one aspect of assertiveness. It just means that it is easier to persuade people if you use polite arguments and flattery than if you are confrontational.


Being assertive starts with understanding that your rights, thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires are just as important as everyone else's. But remember they are not more important than anyone else's, either.