Is Your Speech Aggressive or Assertive?

You can use either aggressive or assertive communication to express what you need. An important difference between them, however, is that aggressive communication demonstrates a lack of respect for others. Speaking aggressively implies that you focus on accomplishing your goal without taking into account how your tone of voice, choice of words, or overall message may negatively affect your audience.

Using assertive communication, on the other hand, you can state your needs without offending your audience. In fact, showing concern for others generally makes them more receptive to what you say, so you are more likely to get what you want. In this sense, you are able to accomplish your objectives more effectively and maintain relationships with others at the same time.

Here are some tips for speaking assertively:

  • Think ahead about what approach will work best with your intended audience
  • Enter conversations with a positive outlook
  • Begin with a few words that "set the stage" to avoid sounding abrupt
  • Demonstrate openness through your body language and tone of voice
  • Be clear and specific about what you need
  • Provide reasons for your position or request
  • Speak from your own perspective using "I statements"
  • Collaborate with your audience to find mutually acceptable solutions

Sometimes changing an aggressive statement to an assertive one is a matter of only a few words. Take a look at these opening statements:

Aggressive: "Brad. You're going to have to get me the data on the X10 project by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow."

Assertive: "Brad, I'm getting ready for our meeting with Syndex. So I'll need to get the X10 project data from you by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow."

If you think that your style may come across as too direct or aggressive, remember that small changes can make a big difference.

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