At Work

DO YOU understand the difference between submissive, aggressive and assertive behaviour?

I’m not sure a lot of people do because I hear comments such as: “He’s very assertive!” or “How do you manage people who are too assertive?”

What these people are really commenting on is the behaviour of people who are aggressive, not assertive.

So what’s the difference?

Assertive behaviour is positive — it will help you communicate clearly and confidently your needs, wants and feelings to other people without abusing in any way their human rights.

It will produce better results when managing a difficult person, and it can be learnt.

Let’s look a bit closer at each type of behaviour:

1 Submissive

I’m sure you are familiar with “fight or flight” responses. These are in-built programmes to help you survive and deal with different situations. We all use them.

Submissive behaviour is the flight response. It is natural behaviour, and depending on your upbringing, you may develop it throughout your life.

People who are submissive tend to:

a) Avoid stating their needs and feelings;

b) Communicate their needs and feelings in an apologetic way; and

c) Give others rights that they don’t claim for themselves.

Submissive behaviour sounds like this:

“I’m really sorry. I just don’t have the time to go through those reports with you now. I’ve got to get all these accounts finished before lunch time. My boss is a real pain, asking me to do this today. I’d really like to help you. I’ll look at it later if that’s okay?”

2 Aggressive

Aggressive behaviour is the fight response. Again, this is an in-built programme that can be developed throughout your life.

If you learn that you can achieve things by using aggressive behaviour, you continue to develop it. Naturally, this is to the detriment of our relationships with other people.

People who are aggressive tend to:

a) Encourage others to do things by flattery or manipulation;

b) Ignore the needs and feelings of others, either intentionally or by default; and

c) Take rights for themselves that they don’t give to others.

Aggressive behaviour sounds like this:

“Do you think I’ve nothing better to do than check those reports?”

3 Assertive

This is logical, thinking behaviour. It is not driven by your emotions. And although it may be natural for a few people, it tends to be learned behaviour. It is about:

a) Being clear and direct in what you say;

b) Stating your needs and feelings in a straightforward way; and

c) Standing up for your rights without violating the rights of others.

Assertive behaviour sounds like this:

“I’m unable to help you with those reports this morning. I am doing accounts at the moment, and I’ll be pleased to help you this afternoon. What time suits you?”

What’s best

None of this is necessarily good or bad, but if you want to be better at managing difficult people, you need to ensure that:

- You don’t use submissive or aggressive behaviour.

- You recognise submissive or aggressive behaviour in others.

- You learn and use assertive techniques with difficult people.

Assertiveness is a very positive response in any interaction. It makes it clear to the other person what you are unhappy about and allows you to calmly state your case without violating their rights.

And of course, that will make life much less stressful for you! – Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

·Article by Alan Fairweather, an international speaker, best-selling author and sales growth expert.