Many of us (particularly women), have been there.  In the workplace, feeling the need to speak up but hesitating for fear of being labelled aggressive. But wait a moment – speaking up, voicing your opinion or standing up for yourself isn’t aggressive.  It’s the way that it’s done that can be.  What you want is to be assertive.

The term aggressive carries negativity.  It’s associated with anger and hostility.  It quite rightly isn’t appropriate for the workplace and is not something you’d want to be known for.  But assertive relates to confidence and positivity.

An assertive person is self-assured and diplomatic.  They state their opinions directly, being respectful and acknowledging the input of others even if they don’t agree with them.  They remain calm and they listen.  An assertive person stands up for themselves and can be ambitious, but not at the expense of others.  An aggressive person is the opposite.

An aggressor demands attention and action, forces their views and ignores or attacks the opinion of others.  They expect to have their way, no matter who they hurt. The assertive person is a team-player, whereas the aggressor doesn’t know what that means.

So how can you ensure that you’re seen as assertive rather than aggressive?

Tips for being assertive

When speaking

Keep the tone and volume of your voice calm and at conversation level.  When you’re assertive you’re in control of yourself and your emotions – yelling sees you lose that control.

Interacting with others

Listen and don’t interrupt.  Interaction is a two-way street.  Don’t talk at someone, talk to them. Acknowledge their ideas and give credit where it’s due.  If you disagree, do so respectfully and explain why.  Value others and their contribution no less than you value yourself.

When negotiating.

Aim for a win-win outcome.  Assertive people have goals and aspirations, but don’t want to achieve them at the expense of others.  State your case and stick to the facts.  Do not speak negatively of others in an attempt to shine brighter yourself.

Be yourself

Men, by design, often have more of a physical presence, with a deeper, possibly louder voice.  Women can be seen as aggressive if they try to match the behaviour and manner of male colleagues – sometimes in the belief that it’s required in order to be taken seriously – simply because it doesn’t appear natural.  Changes to usual body language and tone of voice, to emulate others, can come across as an attempt to intimidate or an indication of anger, even if it’s not the intention.  So just be yourself, have confidence in your abilities whilst being respectful of others, and you’ll be on the right track.


Subscribe to MMO HR Solutions – Careers here, for news, tips and offers designed to assist you in achieving your career goals.


Disclaimer:  Blogs posted by MMO HR Solutions are for information purposes only and do not constitute professional advice.  The reading/use of any blog posts does not form a consultant-client relationship and such reading/use should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.