YOUR workplace could be a small-and-medium enterprise with only a few employees or a corporate environment with many departments.

Whatever your workplace arrangement, it will involve interacting with people and getting along with managers, co-workers and clients.

Some of these people will have to take orders and direction from you. Most importantly, it involves being able to communicate effectively with many different types of people.

One key aspect of effective communication is assertiveness, which is about giving and receiving respect, fairness and your ability to communicate your needs and stand up for yourself without infringing on the rights of other people. 

In workplaces, many people feel taken advantage of by their co-workers because they have trouble saying no even if the requests are unreasonable.

Being assertive is being able to express your ideas and opinions clearly and authoritatively in a confident manner to earn the respect of other people.

Assertive behaviour

Assertive behaviour is directly related to effective communication. It is the ability to honestly and directly articulate your feelings and needs confidently, while actively listening to and understanding other people’s points of views. It is also about being fully accountable for your actions while making the other person understand his accountability.

An assertive person has the capacity to make choices after evaluating the information and also gives others the right to make choices.

Imagine the increase in office productivity or among sales teams if each person practiced assertive communication. Unfortunately, not everyone expresses assertive behaviour.

Aggressive  behaviour

Assertiveness should be differentiated from aggressiveness, even though both involve expressing opinions and stating issues which must be addressed.

The difference lies in the manner used to achieve the end result, such as the tone with which the issue is conveyed, the spoken words used and the body language accompanying the communication. 

A person exhibiting aggressive behaviour often blames and accuses other people. He usually uses a loud voice when talking to other people and may resort to name-calling and using threatening language.

Some express sarcasm or demonstrate a lack of interest in hearing or understanding the point of view of the other person. Aggressive people tend to use threatening language and postures so others are pressured into responding positively to what he wants.

Aggressive behaviour is often demanding or even intimidating, while assertive behaviour is firm but shows a willingness to discuss an issue and listen to the other party’s point of view.

Being assertive requires being persistent and exhibiting a willingness to compromise for the positive resolution of an issue, while being aggressive means being inflexible and controlling, wanting things only in a certain fixed way.

Aggressive behaviour is often seen as an attack on another person and can be destructive with the other person being forced into a defensive stance where their views are lost in the interaction.

Passive behaviour

In contrast, passive behaviour is often exhibited by a person who is lacking in self-confidence. Generally, characteristics of passive behaviour include blaming, complaining and accusing others. 

Individuals who are passive usually use indirect statements when expressing issues that are bothering them and may exhibit dishonesty. In dealing with situations where problems need solving, they often avoid the issue hoping the problem will go away or be resolved by others.

They try not to upset people and will not seek to fulfil their needs because they fear the consequences or are afraid of hurting the feelings of others. There is the tendency to accept the blame when people point out some flaw or problem. 

Not everyone knows how to be assertive, that is, being confident and firm without being aggressive. It is not necessarily easy, but it is a skill that can be learned. It requires being upfront about your wants and needs while still considering the rights, wants and needs of others.

When you are assertive you ask for what you want, but don’t necessarily get it. But greater assertiveness, especially in the working environment, can help to bring out the best in yourself and other people.

When individuals in a workplace treat one another with respect and practise assertive behaviour, there are no limits on what can be achieved. Assertive communication is the key to increased productivity.