Last night as I sat in bed talking on the phone, I heard a loud, tap tap against my window. My heart jumped a little and I reminded myself I lived on the first floor. Tap, tap, tap. Louder this time. More insistent. I pulled back the blind to find the end of a broomstick was the culprit and my neighbour was holding onto it, very tightly. Once she spotted me, she proceeded to tell me loudly and what felt accusatory that she was trying to sleep and I should stop playing the guitar. I proceeded to tell her, I was on the phone and there was no-one playing the guitar in our flat.
She didn't believe me. In fact, she continued to tell me to stop playing and after opening the window and telling her again that no-one in our flat was playing guitar, she glared at me with disbelief and having the last word said. It's coming from your direction.
The scenario and interaction made me think about the difference between aggressive and assertive and where do you draw the line. Does aggressive get you anywhere? And how could the situation have been different? After all I understood that she wanted to sleep, it was late and I worried maybe I had been too loud on the phone. But as she couldn't hear my talking through the closed window, I figured I wasn't.
I know when I was younger, I struggled to understand the difference between assertive and aggressive and to be able to state my case and not tip over to the aggressive side, or even passive.
So how do you stand you ground. Ask for what you want and not appear aggressive?
Aggressive as: ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression
Let's take last nights scenario. How could she have acted differently to state what she wanted and maybe achieve a better outcome? Could she have asked the question, rather than made an assumption?
The difference in this situation is being open to conversation. Not being closed to negotiation or conversation. Aggressive is about forcing your will onto someone and assertive is about standing your ground, but at the same time, you are willing to bend.
Cambridge dictionary defines assertive as:
Someone who is assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.
But to be assertive and not aggressive, you have to take time to let any anger or emotion dissipate, so that you can calmly and confidently state what you want. Once emotions tip into the conversation it is too easy to get frustrated and not be able to see the other side.
Being assertive comes from how you're thinking and feeling. How you approach the situation and what you're thinking can drive how you act. Even if you aren't aware of it. Frustration, can often change the tone of our voice and our body language, making it look as if we are being aggressive (even if that isn't our intent).
So how can you be assertive? Take time to write down what you want. What's the outcome that you are looking for. Why is it important for you to have this outcome and how can you explain this to your colleague or boss (or neighbour). Don't just approach the person, create space and time for them to be able to have time and space to think about what you are proposing. After all, no-one likes to have a conversation thrown on them (unless it is necessary).
Make it a conversation, not an interrogation. Be clear. Allow yourself time to breath and look at the conversation from both sides, so you can be prepared for any questions or challenges. And most of all remember, this isn't about you forcing your will on someone. It is about stating what you want and why it is important to you.
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