I love watching my two and a half year old granddaughter play with toys with her friends, children of a similar age. The interactions with each other are usually friendly and fun, but I have noticed, without exception, that all children need to have their own toys, probably to give them a sense of security in the midst of all the other children that, of course, may select from the toys that can be found in the “sharing pool”. Children can be quite assertive over their own toys and are quick to communicate a “no go” zone with respect to these toys to the other children. Sometimes, although perhaps seldom, this assertive behaviour can change to aggression if a child oversteps the well-defined boundaries set by the owner of the toy.

There seems to be a fine line between assertiveness and aggression. Aggressive people typically consider themselves to be more important than others – their opinions, their feelings and their needs. They choose for others, don’t really care what they say to others and may even attempt to achieve their goals at the expense of others. This superior attitude translates into a “win at all costs” thought process (others must lose and I must win). Fundamentally, the aggressive style wants control – of decisions, of situations and of outcomes.

Assertive people, on the other hand, have self-respect and value themselves, while at the same time, value others and respect their needs – they recognise their own feelings, want to meet their needs and see their contributions as important, but they also value others and are willing to consider their needs and feelings and give them opportunity to contribute. The assertive person is therefore purposeful and self-confident (others must win and I must win). This brings contentment.

Assertiveness may seem like aggression to some, but if centered in the right principles, should rather be seen as firmness.

In a family or work context, assertiveness, rather than aggression, puts you in a better place to ensure that you achieve your goals and that others get the satisfaction of achieving their goals as well. Your now established self-respect frees you to show respect to others and have better quality relationships.

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