How to Be Assertive (Without Being Aggressive)?
The days when you were people’s doormat are now over. One of the boldest features of an attractive, dominant man is the ability to stand up for himself, and do so elegantly and respectfully. Using assertiveness, you maintain a fair balance between your boundaries, identity and respect for those who violate them. Let’s see what makes a man assertive, and what to watch out for.
The Passive, Aggressive and Assertive Man
When people cross other people’s borders, there are 3 possible responses to the situation.
Giving the environment an absolute permission to hurt you without your objection means being passive. Beta men tend to be like this, probably for fear of unpleasant confrontations.
Passivity is the worst of the three types of responses, because in most situations – the passive man is hurt the most. To illustrate, imagine a situation where you are asthmatic and it’s important that you don’t inhale smoke. Now, a friend of yours (who knows about your medical condition) pulls out a cigarette and smokes next to you. The passive man will feel uncomfortable with the idea of disturbing a friend in the middle of his cigarette, so he’ll go somewhere else and let him finish it. In this seemingly well-resolved situation, there are two problems:
- What if there was no comfortable place to get away from the smoke (like a bus stop on a rainy day)?
- Why would such a friend light a cigarette and endanger you in the first place?
Getting used to thinking passively will make it difficult for you to stop and prevent situations that hurt you or make you feel bad. The fear of confrontation (no, it’s not being considerate – it’s just an excuse of passive men) shuts these men up and as a result, these are almost always the guys who end up suffering in silence.
There’s nothing alpha in this approach, and I want you to pay attention to the situations in your life where you prefer to remain silent and suffer, because a confrontation “just isn’t worth it”. Yes, this may be true in a small number of cases. But still, consider these moments and you will realize that this is usually an unjustified fear of confrontation.
The other extreme of the reaction range is aggressiveness. Being an aggressive man means perceiving conflicts as threats, and desperately using anger to put an end to them.
In the egoistic aspect, it’s better to be aggressive than too passive. A man who uses aggression to get what he wants will prevail in most cases. The problem is that this is only a short-term victory. No one likes to be around an angry person who terrorizes everyone whenever things don’t go exactly according to his expectations. That’s why aggressive men tend to be lonelier, or less loved than the rest of the group.
Constant use of anger reveals a deep weakness. Think about it, when exactly do you lose your temper – when you do have the resources and options to respond to difficulty, or when you’re already at a loss? The furious man doesn’t really have the ability nor the patience to solve problems, and may also be very insecure (contrary to popular belief).
Let’s return to the example of your friend with his cigarette. An aggressive person will yell at him to put out the cigarette, curse, threaten and in extreme cases get physical (throw the cigarette out of his hand, push him, etc.).
This is not a behavior of an alpha, but of a desperate person. In his eyes, he has no ability to fix the situation and frustration is expressed in pitiful rage – perhaps by getting angry, people’s fear will allow him to influence things.
The healthy sweet spot between suffering quietly and losing your temper. An assertive person is one who’s able to protest, to get what he wants – without creating a fuss or negative feelings. It’s the ability to be true to yourself while patient with others.
As you see, an alpha male is definitely assertive in most cases. His desires and feelings are important enough to be expressed when something doesn’t appeal to him. And the group’s feelings and unity are important enough to stay respectful for other people.
General speaking, attractive and dominant males tend to be more even-headed, composed. That’s why they are perceived by society as strong and powerful – it’s like nothing takes them off balance.
Back to the cigarette case, if you wondered. An assertive man would turn to the friend politely yet with a clear voice and clearly say he doesn’t want any smoking next to him, and ask him to put out his cigarette or go somewhere else. Whether it succeeds or not is irrelevant right now, the point is to keep your cool and express what you feel plainly.
The urge to have a voice in society is an important psychological need for all people. An alpha male chooses to be heard without being unnecessarily bellicose.
Table of the Three Responses
|Passive||– No confrontation.
– Seen as an easy person.
|– Zero self-expression.
– High chance for reoccurrence.
– Feelings of disempowerment.
|Aggressive||– High chance of getting what you want.
– People will try not to hurt / disturb you.
|– Society’s hate and fear.
– Possible loneliness.
– Unhealthy, physically and mentally.
– Feelings of disempowerment.
|Assertive||– Keeps composure.
– High chance of getting what you want.
– Society’s appreciation.
– High self-expression.
|– Might be perceived as cocky / arrogant.|
If you’re wondering about the single disadvantage of assertiveness, well, that’s the truth and there’s nothing to be done. Even the most attractive, fun and dominant man will be hated and there’ll be those who don’t like him – no matter what he does Assertiveness means responding sensibly. And if it means getting a few sour faces from people because you’re “such a Mr. Perfect”, that’s fine. Accept it. Remember the famous phrase attributed to James Gray: “If everyone loves you, you must be doing something wrong”.
How to Be Less Aggressive
To convey assertiveness, it’s important to maintain basic rules of mutual respect and coolness. Confronting someone about a sentimental subject may provoke strong emotions and result in aggressive reactions. In order to avoid this, I want to show you ways to calm this side in you and keep your composure in almost every situation.
The Purpose of Aggression
Aggression isn’t always as destructive as I may have presented it. From a biological view, aggression helped us avoid risks by removing creatures that might harm us and our close-ones.
Today in the modern world things are a bit different. Being aggressive will probably not save us from the dangers of the new world. For two main reasons:
- There are not many life-threatening dangers in the first place, as opposed to the past.
- The dangers that do exist are mainly wars and car / work accidents. Unlike in the past, aggression no longer plays a life-saving role in any of those dangers. Knowledge and tactics took that part.
The rise in the need for information and the decline in demand for power and aggression created a confusing situation for modern-day men. I elaborate on the subject in my article on the alpha male in modernity.
Today, we may interpret undesirable situations as dangers, as threats to our lives and the lives of those dear to us. Logically, it’s clear that the boss who fires us or the policeman who stops us aren’t a real life-threatening dangers (well, in most of the world), yet our brain still works with extreme concepts, of well-being or death. Therefore, it’s important I present methods to approach conflicts in a wise and assertive manner.
1. Don’t Respond Immediately
Aggressive and even assertive men rise immediately to defend themselves or protest when something’s not to their liking. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re a man who quickly gets angry, behaving passive-aggressively, has poor control of emotions – you definitely want to take a step back before you protest the injustice done to you.
Not only will this pause give you time to enter the conflict in a more controlled and logical manner, you may also sometimes discover that there will be no need for a confrontation at all – because the other person has already understood his mistake or ugly behavior and corrected himself.
For example, if someone cuts you in line, and you decide to take 10 seconds of thought before you say something – he might realize the mistake and go back. Or will turn to you first, and explain the situation after an apology.
Give people and yourself time. I’m sure you sometimes do something inconsiderate and unfair, and only after a few seconds you notice and correct yourself. Give others this chance as well. Of course, if you still need to, approach things with composure and ease.
2. Don’t Take Things Personally
Have you noticed how people argue about topics that really matter to them? Subjects that are close to their hearts? These are usually things like religion, politics, relationships, etc. It’s difficult to talk about them 100% objectively and logically. Emotions rise to the surface and the discussion becomes a battlefield.
Therefore, when you encounter an invasion of your personal boundaries, do not presume that you are the victim. You should assume that the offense was by mistake, and even if it wasn’t – it means nothing about you, but rather on the offending side.
Let’s take cutting-in-line example again, you should assume that the person who cut you simply didn’t see you there. This way it’s easy to protest assertively with zero aggression – because you take into account that this is a human error. If there’s no reason to believe that this is a mistake, it’s better that you see the ugly behavior as a defect in the other person. In our example, you have to say to yourself, “He’s just an asshole”, instead of saying “It’s like I’m nothing!”.
Do not associate the behavior exclusively to you. It will only annoy you and hurt your ability to react calmly.
3. It’s Probably Not Serious
As I mentioned above, the chances that you’ll encounter life-threatening conflicts today are very low. Try to remember this every time you need to respond and stand on your own.
The thought of how, for example, cutting in line is trivial and really not a reason to get angry, will allow you to approach the conflict with assertiveness that will never deteriorate into aggression. Logic will take control over emotion and remind you of how unbeneficial is aggression here.
4. Angry Anyway? Talk About It
If you can’t find a solution in the above methods, here’s your last resort in avoiding unnecessarily aggressive conversation: Total openness about your anger.
Imagine yourself during a confrontation in which rage builds in you more and more. Your assertive character starts to crumble and you start giving shorter answers, being cynical, raising your voice, etc. At that moment, simply say to the other person: “I’m mad at you“. This is something rarely heard today during a confrontation. It’s so obvious, but nobody comes and expresses it in such honesty. Instead, people prefer to insult and be aggressive towards one another.
Once you’re exposed in such an authentic way, the other person feels that there’s real intention here and a true attempt to solve a problem. People feel that the situation is so close to you that you simply expressed your feelings. It’s hard to continue talking aggressively after such a statement, because it’s like saying “Help me out here, okay?”.
How to Be More Assertive and Stand on Your Own
In order to deal with conflicts effectively, a man must know how to put people in their place if they’ve violated his boundaries. I want to give you some techniques and approaches that’ll help you be assertive, without hurting feelings and with a high chance of getting what you want.
1. Learn to Say “No”
The root of building personal boundaries. A man who can’t say “no” (can’t = feeling uncomfortable, afraid of being selfish or rude, etc.) will be the doormat of society.
You must remember that everyone, always, needs something from someone. We are social beings and it’s inevitable. People with clear values and boundaries will say “no” to whatever they think doesn’t pay for them.
Therefore, it’s only logical that exploitative offers / deals / requests will find their way to you, and the way to escape them is to be definite in your negative answer.
As an alpha male, it’s necessary to set aside the concerns of “what will they think of me”. Your time, resources, and attention are worth far more than people’s opinion.
2. Silence Hurts You Does you an injustice – Don’t Be Shy to Ask
No one can know what you need or what bothers you if you don’t open your mouth. For a lot of people, being assertive and ask things from other people is perceived in 3 ways:
- Being rude.
- Committing to that person in the future.
- Disturbing that person.
These three thoughts are incorrect. There’s nothing rude in a request per se. We live in a fairly free society – people can say “no” and our requests don’t make them miserable. Let’s give them some credit.
The thought of committing to that person is using the same defeatist logic on yourself. As if you must fulfill people’s will in the future if you asked for their help in the past. No, you can certainly refuse requests from such people. Of course, such behavior may not be acceptable to them, and it’s always good to be a decent person and seek to help (like an alpha would).
The point is that you have to remember the power you have. If you need something – speak. Don’t let unnecessary thoughts about the future prevent you from getting what you want. People aren’t thought readers. And a sour face doesn’t really convey your desires like an open and sincere conversation.
In addition, don’t decide for people if what you’re doing bothers them or not. It’s not your job. Ask, request, express – if it bothers anyone, it’s his / her responsibility to inform you.
3. Keep a Steady Tone of Voice
We tend to forget the power in our voice to influence the environment. Most men don’t have enough presence in their voice, and the position they express is viewed as weak. You must check following things when you speak:
- Volume that’s high enough not to be lost in the background.
- A tone that conveys a clear purpose.
Without sticking to these principles, there’s good chance that you won’t receive proper acknowledgement from your environment. Don’t be shy to demonstrate your presence, even speak at a higher volume than those around you.
On the other end of the scale, there are men who shout or curse to get an audience. Make sure that you’re not one of them. Shouts and curses are verbal aggressions – a position of weakness and despair, as we’ve seen above.
If you’re unsure how good you are at assertive dialect, practice: Try to imagine that you’re in a situation where you must demonstrate assertiveness, and start practicing on expressing yourself in an unambiguous tone of voice. You’ll be surprised to see how much this exercise helps at the moment of truth.
4. Choose Words Carefully
Except for the way you sound, the sentences and words you use are also critical. Rule #1 is to never say things that are ambiguous. Sometimes men will end up a request with a “maybe…?”, “if that’s not a problem…?”, and as long as you don’t talk to someone who’s hierarchically above you and needs to be shown respect – there’s no need for this verbal subservience.
I used to miss this one a lot, believing that a great deal of politeness would be appreciated by the other person and I’d get what I wanted. Reality is different, people interpret this niceness as a message that says “It’s not that important”.
So keep your sentences short and definite, without too much agreeableness. You can be nice and kind after you get what you want from them. Until then – no one deserves special treatment. Yes, of course you should be polite, just don’t fawn and soften the importance of your request.
5. Look at Confrontation as Conversation Only
No doubt, when a person pulls out his assertiveness card he starts a confrontation. This is why so many men prefer to suffer in silence, to be passive. To make starting a conflict easier for yourself, you must change your perspective on conflicts with people.
We usually see conflict as a duel, a fight – someone must win and the other must lose. But an alpha male knows this is not the point at all, the ultimate goal is to create social harmony.
I suggest you look at confrontations simply as conversation. A conversation designed to create a better understanding between you and those you confront. If a person bothers you in some way, don’t see your response as “a way to make him / her stop”, see it as “a way to get him / her to know me better.” Both definitions are correct, but the second is far less intimidating and doesn’t give a combative title to the interaction between the two of you.
6. Humor is a Fantastic Tool
Some will say that humor might sabotage your assertiveness, because it diminishes the importance of issue. I tend to disagree. I had success in motivating enough people (prisoners, children, a cast) in perfect assertiveness with lots of humor. I’ll tell you even more than that: Without humor, the effectiveness of expressing what I want goes down.
Now, of course the type of humor and intonation are important. You probably don’t want to laugh at your own expense when you need to use assertiveness. On the other hand, teasing, pointing out something amusing – can be powerful. You see, a person who allows himself to use humor is a person who doesn’t feel cornered, he’s not desperate. This positive impression gives you more authority.
Another advantage of humor is its ability to neutralize a huge percentage of the resentment that the other person feels from confronting you. It’s hard to be angry and aggressive toward a person who speaks with you about an important and serious matter, and is yet able to see the humorous side in all of this. There is affection despite the tough conversation.
7. Know When to Let Go or Insist
Your life will not become a paradise just because you can be assertive. Many times you’ll find that stubbornness is needed to get what you deserve out of people. Don’t be shy to ‘push it’ if it’s an important matter to you, just keep things tactful and cool.
Trying to get a raise is a classic example of situations where one-time assertiveness usually doesn’t work. You should continue to ask, respectfully. On the other hand, you will discover that there are things that will never happen, no matter how assertive or stubborn you are. Sometimes the solution is simply to let go and move on with your life.
Dealing with People Who Are Used to Your Old Self
Don’t be surprised if, after you begin applying assertiveness, you’ll encounter slurs, questions and even resistance from friends, colleagues, family members, etc. It’s a natural reaction of humans to change. Your social or family dynamics are destabilized when you change your character for the better, and it’s difficult for them.
The most noticeable resistance will come from people who’ve gotten used to exploiting your passivity so far. Don’t be discouraged by the comments. In the short term, it’s not easy, but hold your breath long enough and society will get used to it: “This is the new [your name]”. Over time a newer, healthier reality will be established for you and them. No need to panic.
I began the article by presenting our three possible responses to people who are crossing our lines: passivity, aggressiveness, assertiveness. I talked about the meaning of each of them while noting the advantages and disadvantages.
From there we went on to talk about aggressiveness on a deeper level: Why it exists in us, and what are the ways to silence it in favor of assertiveness in every interaction.
Then I presented you with the best ways in my opinion to develop effective assertiveness for any kind of conflict. Principles such as being aware of your ability to say “no” without guilt, tone of voice, effective verbal communication, humor to maintain healthy relationships even though it’s a confrontation and more.
Finally, I talked about the importance of ignoring the negative comments of your environment because of the change you’re going through. People are uncomfortable with changes in social dynamics, especially if they have used it to exploit the passivity of others. It’s all a matter of habit and time, don’t let this beak you.
I hope I’ve been able to convey to you the principles of assertiveness. Use this ability and you will have a huge advantage over most people who are prone to passivity or aggressiveness. A real alpha male knows how to find balance in his life and apply – and assertiveness is certainly an excellent example for such balance.