Understanding the Difference between Aggression and Assertiveness
Before you learn how to properly communicate anger, it is worthwhile exploring the difference between aggression and assertiveness. Managing anger is about replacing aggression with assertiveness. Assertiveness is very different from aggression, and is part of healthy, protective anger. People who are assertive are normally kind, responsible, good listeners, empathic, and non-violent, unlike aggressive individuals who take out their anger on others. Aggression rides roughshod over the rights of others, while assertiveness recognises the rights of both sides. Assertiveness underlies good self-esteem, while, more often than not, aggressive people have low self-esteem. To put it simply, if we feel worthwhile we will not allow anyone to walk on us and we will not inflict pain on others. It is a matter of respecting boundaries, those essential safeguards which are discussed in several sections of this book. But, apart from working on boundaries, you can also practise assertiveness. It is difficult to do it on your own and the assistance of a professional is advisable. In such cases you will give some examples of where you have been aggressive and the counsellor will help you to find assertive ways of responding. As with boundaries you will have to practise this until it becomes a normal way of responding. What happens in such cases is that the brain creates a new program to facilitate assertive responses.
Problem solving is also an effective way of converting aggression to assertiveness. In problem solving you come up with solutions, where you examine various situations of aggressive behaviour. You can analyse the consequences of this behaviour, and come up with other responses you might have made and the consequences of these. So, for example, if you shouted at your boss and threatened him, the consequences might be suspension or firing, but if you walked away you might be at most reprimanded. If you decided that it would be best to request a meeting at a later stage, the consequences might be a much better outcome because you will then have a voice – an assertive or a rational voice, rather than an aggressive and irrational voice. All of this is a learned behaviour and it can be done with time and patience and making mistakes.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
THERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
PSYCHOTHERAPISTS IN TIPPERARY
DEATH OF A CHILD
ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE