Extraordinary Team Blog

Assertiveness Better Than Aggressiveness on the Job

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 12, 2009

There is a fine line between aggressive and assertive, and you may have crossed over that line before.

Aggressive implies being on the attack, telling others what to do.

Aggressive people are usually trying to protect their turf, advance their opinions and strategies, and generally work really hard to be “right.”  Unfortunately, when you are “right,” someone else has to be “wrong.”  And nobody likes to be wrong.

Assertiveness implies knowing your turf and being confident and comfortable to acknowledge that there are other opinions, options, and turfs around you.

Assertive people speak up for themselves honestly and directly, while listening intently to other people’s viewpoints.  They look for a collaborative “win-win” — something even better than their own idea.  This is the true essence of team work.

If you are perceived as being aggressive, try these techniques to become an assertive team player:

Be Open.  You may be right, but then again, there might be other possibilities you have not considered.  Be open to the fact that others may be right, too!

Listen Intently.  Truly listen to your teammate’s ideas.  Let them complete their thoughts, acknowledge valid points, and then add your ideas.

Build Agreements.  One person rarely has the best solution, so look to build a consensus by taking all the good points (not just yours) and developing mutually beneficial solutions.

Don’t Hog Airtime.  Aggressive people usually dominate discussions.  Watch the amount of “airtime” you use on the team.  You should aim for an appropriate percentage.  For example, if there are five people on your team, you should aim to speak around 20% of the time, listening for the other 80%.

Assertiveness is important to great teamwork as long as it is balanced by your consideration for others.  When everyone practices this balance, it is much easier to build a collaborative consensus.

Question:  Have you been more aggressive than assertive lately?