Passive, aggressive, or assertive?

How assertive are you?

If PASSIVE is on one end of the scale, AGGRESSIVE is on the other, and ASSERTIVE sits right in the middle, where do you sit?


I don’t think anyone is assertive 100 per cent of the time. We all have our passive moments, our aggressive outbursts, and, even worse, our passive-aggressive ones. But cultivating assertiveness skills, at least according to most psychologists, seems the wise way to go if we want to have our needs met and lead a rich, secure life.

Psychology Today defines it this way:

“Demonstrating assertiveness means there’s no question where you stand, no matter the topic. Cognitively, to be assertive implies a lack of anxious thoughts in light of stress. Behaviorally, assertiveness is all about asking for what you want in a manner that respects others. Assertive people don’t shy away from defending their points of view or goals, or from trying to influence others. In terms of affect, assertiveness means reacting to positive and negative emotions without aggression or resorting to passivity.”

I used to be a lot more passive than I am now, but I’ve gradually learnt more about communicating where I stand when it comes to my feelings and opinions. I handle stress better through asking for what I need (rather than perpetuating a ‘victim’ or ‘martyr’ mindset), and I’m more confident in articulating my point of view, and goals for the future. I still struggle in conflict situations where I’m required to speak up rather than remaining passive, and I find the idea of bringing up a difficult topic with a friend terrifying… but I’m getting better.

The journey towards assertiveness has been a long one for me.

How about you? Do you struggle to articulate your opinions, goals, dreams and desires? What is it you enjoy? What makes you come alive? What are your plans for the future? Are they good? Full of hope? Have you shared these things with friends?

And do you ask for your needs to be met?

We can easily allow life to steamroll over us if we don’t assertively ask the people who care for us to help us in specific, practical ways. Owning our needs and asking for help is a skill many of us haven’t cultivated, but healthy support is vital.

What about boundaries? Do you protect your ‘house’ with sturdy, clearly delineated fences, or it open to anyone who asks for a place to stay? How do you carve out and balance time for yourself, your partner, family and friends?

Every time you say yes to something, something has to give. Is it really worth it, or would saying no be a healthier choice?

A good life has to start with owning our choices and knowing where we stand. I want to be an assertive, clear-minded person who knows what I think, is in touch with how I feel, and exercises her choices in a healthy way. How about you?

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  1. I was lucky to have a mentor/employer right out of college that taught be how to be assertive and how important it was. He led by example and reminded/drilled into me, that what I needed and had to say was important. And that this could all be done without being aggressive. I am grateful for having that influence in my life at the beginning of true independence and that I am comfortable in my assertiveness now as a result.

  2. I would say my assertiveness depends on the situation. At work, I’ve always been able to speak up when I have an opinion or idea. In personal relationships, I’d say I’d been more on the passive side. I didn’t realize this until fairly recently, but I think my passiveness came from my need to avoid the anxiety that comes with personal conflicts. After many years, I’ve seen that I created a different kind of conflict – an internal one. I lost myself but am working on finding me again.

    1. That’s insightful. It’s hard working through those internal conflicts, but I think you’re half way there when you’ve recognized the root of the issue.
      I get it. I’m a conflict avoider in relationships too. I always struggle with knowing whether saying ‘no’ is worth the conflict or not. But often it leads to more peace inside when I do.

  3. Very important topic and not discussed often enough. I struggle with being assertive but I’ve also realised how damaging it can be when I don’t express my needs and opinions. It creates anxiety and stress if not expressed and in the long run, I believe, can lead to depression. However, I don’t always feel the need to express it. It really depends on the situation. Thank you once again for a great article 👍

    1. Yes, I struggle with that too. It can be hard work to learn how to understand our emotions and express our opinions & needs. But it can be quite empowering and freeing, so for me it’s definitely worth the effort.

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