Many, many moons ago, I did not understand the difference between assertive and aggressive. This resulted in quite a few failed friendships and I often felt like I was a doormat, just waiting for someone to use me.
The importance of having boundaries was instilled in me from a young age, even as a high schooler. That’s when I started learning and I’ve been learning ever since.
So what IS the difference?
AGGRESSIVE is demanding. It is saying things like:
You MUST do this NOW.
You NEVER do this.
You ALWAYS do that.
You have no choice.
If you don’t do this, I won’t love you anymore.
If you do this, you’re a bad person.
Those are just some of the wording that I can think of right now. It’s a “my way or the highway” kind of attitude. In family members, it’s accompanied by conditional love. Threats are often used to get this person’s way. Threats, shaming, manipulation, and controlling.
Relationships with this kind of communication has no trust and is on shaky foundations.
I remember back to when I was single and my next door neighbor had a live-in boyfriend, before they were married. I heard his horrible threats all the time as he spoke quite loudly. YOU DID THIS, YOU DID THAT, I don’t even want your $*@& baby!
Horrible, horrible words. He verbally abused her. Probably physically, too.
At the same time, I was dating my husband long distance. We came to a point where we needed to either grow in our relationship or call it quits.
I DID NOT get aggressive. I got assertive.
I shared with him my feelings in a respectful way…
I feel this, I love that, I regret that, I am disappointed that, I like, I am worried that…
During this particular time, I had written a “love letter,” an exercise that John Gray recommends in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
One night I shared from my heart to my boyfriend, using what I had written. He listened. The next time he came up, he honored what I had said and made different decisions that brought us closer. After 22 years of marriage, I can definitely say it worked!
Being assertive is important in keeping good relationships. So here’s a few things you can say:
I don’t like
When you ________, I feel ________ .
I’d be glad to talk to you when you’re calm.
I’d be glad to do _______ after you _________ .
Now let me say a word about being passive aggressive—just don’t! That’s manipulative and disrespectful.
What’s passive aggressive?
Things like giving someone the silent treatment because they didn’t read your mind. Or not expressing your desires and then getting mad that they’re not fulfilled.
For instance, a long time ago I learned that I have to tell my husband EXACTLY what I want for my birthday, Christmas, etc. He is not a mind reader! Most men aren’t! One time, I had told him that I wanted a 12-string guitar. I had mentioned that to him. He went to a great deal of trouble to find me one on Craigslist and surprised me for my birthday. That was the best present ever!
Does this work? Well, you tell me. I’ve been married to my husband for 22+ plus years and I can honestly say HAPPILY married!
Be lovingly assertive and you WILL reach new heights in your relationships and beyond!
Featured Image by Adobe Stock: