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Many struggle with exhibiting assertive behavior because they confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. It may be especially difficult if you’ve maintained a passive personality most of your life. Now, you feel that you may hurt feelings and make enemies if you practice assertiveness.

If you’ve been an aggressive personality most of your life, it may be very difficult to contain your anger and harshness when dealing with others. You want your way and may not think it can happen by stepping down a rung or two on the ladder to assertive behavior.

The truth is that there is a line between both passive and assertive and aggressive and assertive behaviors. You may want to second-guess yourself about crossing the line – but, if you know the traits of an assertive personality versus passive and aggressive, you should be able to stand up for yourself without backing down or becoming angry and frustrated.

Here is a quick guide about using assertive rather than passive or aggressive behavior:

  • Assertive – Clearly states an opinion, but is respectful of others beliefs.

Aggressive – Becomes angry and attacks the other person’s opinions.

Passive – Stay in the corner and don’t express opinions at all.

  • Assertive – Makes eye contact with others.

Aggressive – Glaring stares at the person.

Passive – Avoids making eye contact.

  • Assertive – Body language is relaxed and open.

Aggressive – Body language is rigid and may enter another’s space.

Passive – Body language is withdrawn and slumped.

  • Assertive – Considers him or herself as valuable as others.

Aggressive – He or she knows it all.

Passive – No self-value or self-esteem.

  • Assertive – Sets goals and reaches them.

Aggressive – May reach goals no matter what he says or does.

Passive – Doesn’t know how to set goals – or reach them.

As you can see by the above patterns, there’s a huge difference between each of the main personality traits. Assertive traits are admired by all, but they may not be easily accepted – at least, not at first. As you continue on the road to assertive behavior patterns, you’ll find it easier to transform from passive or aggressive to assertive. Just remember to think before you act.

There are exceptions to every rule, but if you make it a point to try and be sensitive to people’s feelings and notice body language and facial expressions, you’ll do well in developing an assertive personality style that will bode well for you.