Are they assertive OR aggressive? 9 tips to know the difference

Are they assertive OR aggressive? 9 tips to know the difference

Aggression isn't healthy; assertiveness is a trait needed to survive in this world. Understanding the difference makes you a confident and kind person.

We've heard it before. Standing up for yourself— cool; reacting irrationally to others—not cool. But where do we draw the line? Umm. Now would be the time to slip in the classic definitions of being assertive vs being aggressive.

Assertive: Standing up for your rights, getting your needs met, holding your boundaries in place, and asking for what you deserve, expressing your viewpoints.

Assertive people stand up for their views (Pexels)
Assertive people stand up for their views (Pexels)

Aggressive: Demanding for what you want, using threat, fear, or guilt to get things done, violating others' boundaries, and using others as means to an end.

Aggressive people demand what they want irrespective of facts (Pexels)
Aggressive people demand what they want irrespective of facts (Pexels)

Here are the signs that help you identify if you or someone you know is being assertive or aggressive. 

Assertive behavior

1. Being unafraid to state opinions

Assertive folks say what they think and don't care to sugarcoat it with fake concern. However, they don't act rude or impolite to the point that it hurts other people. 

Being unafraid to state opinions (Pexels)
Being unafraid to state opinions (Pexels)

2. Owning one's views

Assertive folks stand by their personal beliefs and don't care to fit in always. However, they don't go out of their way to mock others' views or beliefs.

Owning one's views (Pexels)
Owning one's views (Pexels)

3. Treating others as equals

Here lies the biggest difference between the two. Assertive folks treat others as equals, who may or may not have the same opinions or interests. Yet, they believe that everyone has the right to be who they are. 

Treating others as equals (Pexels)
Treating others as equals (Pexels)

4. Being kind vs being a pushover

Assertive people don't let others take advantage of them. They refuse to be a pushover or play the victim or martyr. However, they are kind and compassionate when it comes to reaching out to others in need.

Being kind vs being a pushover (Pexels)
Being kind vs being a pushover (Pexels)

5. Asking for what they want

Assertive folks are aware of their own needs and priorities and have no qualms in asking for what they want. They are willing to negotiate, and they have a sense of fairness when it comes to give-and-take. They don't try to overpower the other with might or sly strategies to get what they want.

Asking for what they want (Pexels)
Asking for what they want (Pexels)

6. Refusing to play mind games

They refuse to enter mind games where they believe others know what they want. Instead, they communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs objectively and with a dignity that comes across as an authentic need to be true to oneself.

Refusing to play mind games (Pexels)
Refusing to play mind games (Pexels)

7. Being open to diverse ideas

An assertive person values individuality; thus, they celebrate the unique ideas and viewpoints of others. Aggressive folks tend to be stubborn and others' opinions and strong identity acts as a threat to them.

Being open to diverse ideas (Pexels)
Being open to diverse ideas (Pexels)

8. Refusing to hurt others or themselves

A healthy individual has no intention to hurt others, even when they might not be in an emotionally healthy place. There might be passing moments of jealousy or anger, but they don't intend to willfully harm others. They also ensure they don't hurt themselves or allow others to hurt them unnecessarily. Aggressive folks seek out to hurt others through their words or actions.

Refusing to hurt others or themselves (Pexels)
Refusing to hurt others or themselves (Pexels)

9. Wanting everyone to be happy

Someone who stands up for oneself and yet looks out for others desires all parties involved to go home happy. They don't feel good when they get what they want at the cost of another feeling broken or hurt. Aggressive folks want things to go their way. How this impacts others isn't really a concern they care to think about.

Wanting everyone to be happy (Pexels)
Wanting everyone to be happy (Pexels)


Traits of an aggressive person

1. Compulsion to win

Aggressive folks want to win no matter what. They tend to employ threat, anger or fear to get what they want. They believe in either/or. 

A compulsion to win (Pixabay)
A compulsion to win (Pixabay)

2. Poor negotiators

Their arguments are flawed by their assumptions. They believe successful negotiation involves the other party feeling defeated. They might hear the other's words, but don't really listen with an open mind or heart.

Poor negotiators (Pixabay)
Poor negotiators (Pixabay)

3. Mean-spirited and/or attacking nature

Even if it is them whose boundary is being violated, their intention is not just to protect, but to attack. They get emotionally manipulative or aggressive.

Mean-spirited and/or attacking nature (iStock)
Mean-spirited and/or attacking nature (iStock)

4. Self-centered

These people are focused on getting their way rather than focusing on what might be beneficial for everyone involved. In short, they are self-focused rather than solution-focused.

Self-centered (Pexels)
Self-centered (Pexels)

5. Bullying tendencies

Typical of a bully, aggressive folks use power, physical strength, words, and emotional manipulation to force others to agree with them. They feed on others' fear and insecurity. And again like a typical bully, others' confidence and healthy self-esteem pose a threat to them. 

Bullying tendencies (Pexels)
Bullying tendencies (Pexels)

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