What do we mean by assertiveness? Or aggression? Or passive behaviour? These well used words come so laden with preconceptions and personal emotional attachments that it can be hard to discuss. Some people imagine assertiveness means being a no-nonsense tough type who has to work ruthlessly to get what they want, others imagine assertiveness to be embodied by a calm, gentle, well-loved leader.

In our training we aim to remove the stereotypes from these words, and instead to reframe them in terms of values and beliefs. It’s important to remember that there are no judgements that come with these labels – at different points in our lives we are all aggressive sometimes, passive others and hopefully assertive too at points. But the more we can move towards an assertive communication across our interactions, the healthier our relationships will be, the less conflict we will encounter and the more enjoyable our work will be.

Assertive behaviour is valuing and articulating what you want, need, think and feel while acknowledging and respecting the wants, needs, thoughts and feelings of others.

·     This doesn’t mean you necessarily agree, but it means that there is an equal respect for both points of view.

Passive behaviour means expressing your needs, wants, thoughts and feelings in an apologetic way 

·     The aim of passive behaviour is to please others by not disagreeing with them and to avoid conflict

Aggressive behaviour means ignoring or dismissing the needs, wants, thoughts and feelings of others while expressing your own needs, wants, thoughts and feelings in inappropriate ways

·     The aim of aggressive behaviour is to get your own way, possibly at the expense of others

Remember the importance of the role of body language and tone in communication and consider how these can support assertive behaviours. If the vast majority of what we communicate is through our body language and tone, then the different between assertive and aggressive behaviour, or assertive and passive, is likely to be in the physical and tonal communication rather than the majority of the words that are said.

Consider your habitual behaviours in different contexts: eg with a close friend, during a courageous conversation at work, in a feedback context, diffusing conflict between two students. Consider at each step how you are expressing your needs and wants as well as how you are hearing the other person’s needs and wants. 

by Sarah Bedi, co-Artistic Director of BAZ Productions

BAZ provides training for teachers, schools, businesses and individuals. If you feel this might be of interest for your participants, your school or business, please take a look at our brochure here or contact emma@bazproductions.co.uk for more information.