Be careful not to win the battle but lose the war

Many people who are practised in using aggression as a communication strategy get a long way in work and life. This is because they are often highly motivated, proactive people who adopt a direct ‘can do’ approach and, unlike people who use compliance as their main strategy, they are not passive in going after what they want.

But the biggest risk this type of profile faces is pushing for outcomes without first making sure they have genuinely persuaded others to come on board with them.  They mistakenly think when others nod and say ‘yes’ that this means it is a given, whereas others may simply be indicating that they are open to the idea, willing to listen or have partial agreement.

Fundamentally the reason this happens is because people who over-use the aggression strategy have almost always been bullied in childhood and have responded (usually in adolescence) by learning to stand up fiercely with all guns blazing towards the perpetrator.

Despite this bravado, it may surprise you to know that aggressive people are underneath, terrified of conflict.  This is because they fundamentally believe they will never get their preferred outcomes in life UNLESS they apply angry, escalating, winner-takes-all tactics. 

This leads aggressive people to often use the one-punch knockout approach on their opponent rather than soft, lengthy, rational persuasion where outcome is based on the merit of the argument.  Deep down they don’t believe they can persuade.  As they see it, they must decimate the opposition before the opposition decimates them.

In contrast, people who use assertion as their main communication strategy, never see others as the opposition.  Instead, they view all parties as being on the same side but with a problem to solve to the satisfaction of all parties. 

In other words, until the solutions are win-win for everyone involved then the process is not yet over.  This reduces fear during negotiations as there is an ultimate assumption of fair and equitable outcomes for everyone.  (Even if this is not the case, it is best to operate on this assumption.)

Assertive people are also very careful to ensure that others are genuinely persuaded and will ‘own’ and commit to any solutions.  This is because they know that if they ride roughshod over others it will inevitably result in lack of commitment, stubborn resistance and usually sabotage and trench warfare.