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Assertion, Aggression, and Submission – getting the balance right

I’m going to briefly outline the differences between assertion, aggression, and submission in term of communication, as Vickers et al state in their book Personal Impact.

Submissives are the easiest of these three groups to spot.  They’re often swept aside in conversation, and in their personal lives, by ‘big’ personalities.  Being submissive doesn’t necessarily mean being unhappy or insecure, but the complete lack of assertion by people who are submissives, and the willingness to always follow someone – anyone, is detrimental.

Opposite to submission is dominance, but here we’re talking about aggression. Aggression in communication usually involves steamrollering other people in conversation or conference, and treating people very cynically- never listening empathetically for example.  Whilst pushing yourself and your ideas forward can be important, this style of communication is alienating, and ultimately self-defeating as people will not enjoy you.

Vickers states that ‘people who behave assertively stand up for their rights in a way that does not violate other people’s rights.’  Simply put, they believe in themselves and can communicate directly and effectively, without getting people’s backs up.  This is a skill.

You should of course aim to be assertive when you communicate with others, but if you’re naturally more submissive or aggressive that isn’t really a problem, you just need to tone down the aggression when in these situations, or learn how to operate with more weight.  I’ll cover both of these in later blogs.

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