Assertive Vs. Aggressive Behavior

Are you “assertive” or “aggressive?”

The start to 2020 training and video content has stemmed from research for an upcoming training for the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. We will be looking at gender behavior differences and how to use knowledge and observation to increase success. (Interested? Go here to register.)

I was focusing on finding female statistics and data and found this on assertive vs. aggressive behavior:

“Although assertiveness and self-promotion are often needed to succeed in the legal field, women often feel that they must walk a tightrope. If they are too assertive, then they are criticized for not behaving in a ladylike fashion. If they are not assertive enough, then they are often seen as lacking the confidence needed to succeed. Study participants confirmed their experience balancing on this tightrope.” Female Lawyers Face Widespread Gender Bias, According To New Study, Oct 1, 2018

Does this sound familiar? I do believe there is a fine line between assertive vs. aggressive—in all industries. Both genders need assistance. The body language “rules” for confident and visionary leadership are the same for men and women.

So what are some of these “rules” to stay assertive and not fall into aggression?

#1. Posture. Stand or sit tall. I always start any training or talk with good posture. The great news is it is also a great way to be assertive without being perceived as aggressive. The minute you tilt your shoulders or jut out a hip, you take on “attitude” and this is what will be seen as aggressive. Posture is a very powerful communicator and people have VERY strong reactions based on their life experiences. Straight and aligned is always best. Here is a demo:

Assertive vs. Aggressive Posture

#2. Take up space. This is also something I always advise. To be perceived as a confident leader, gestures and posture should take up a bit more space. Where it becomes aggressive vs. assertive is in the magnitude of difference from your normal behavior. If you normally stand and gesture “small” and close to the body, suddenly becoming much bigger will be so jarring that you will be accused of aggression. Taking up space should be done gradually. Watch to see what I mean:

Taking Up Space

#3. Gesture style. Keep gestures “indulgent.” Make sure to watch the video on this one! If you combine movement qualities in the wrong way, you will be perceived as aggressive. Rough gesturing behavior magnifies as qualities are loaded on. Make sure you keep in mind to use slow, light or unfocused gesture qualities to keep you squarely on the side of assertion. Demo:

Gesture Style

#4. Silence. Body silence (no gestures) and vocal silence are great ways to let your point sink in. Assertive leaders are not afraid of silence. You must strive to keep silence neutral. Don’t let the silence go on too much longer than your “normal.” You also need to be silent without facial or body expressions which can come off as a challenge or narcissistic. If you “huff,” roll your eyes or something else as you become silent… “aggressive” will be the label. Need to see what I mean? Watch:

Use of Silence

While it is great to have these tips in mind, there is one more crucial step to success. Your observation skills must read the tolerance level for certain behavior and how it is being perceived. Your assertive is someone else’s aggressive. Personal histories and biases play a large part in how we perceive other’s behavior. The only person you can control is yourself! It is up to you to observe the people around you and adjust your behavior if you choose.

Listen With Your Eyes!

Moving Image Consulting is here to assist you become the Confident and Visionary Leader you desire to be. It is difficult to be truly objective on ourselves. Please reach out for a free consult to see where you may be leaning toward aggressive behavior- BEFORE colleagues leave or management takes other action.