Passive ~ Aggressive ~ Assertive Behaviors

In life we meet people who are difficult to be around and work with because of the way they make us feel. Sometimes, we don’t really know why we don’t enjoy being with that person, or we just have a vague idea that what they are doing makes being around them difficult.

Let’s face it, difficult people, who are usually not aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, have a main goal in life and this is to get their needs met.  Depending on upbringing and unconditional love received as children, these needs can vary.  Acceptance, power, safety, control and manipulation are a few.  It is helpful if we can identify what kind of behavior they exhibit to meet their needs.

So, stop and think for a moment and identify in your mind someone who you consider difficult or makes you feel uncomfortable.  Which of the three responses in the title above do they show most often. Now, stop and think about yourself.  Which do you show most often? Passive?  Aggressive?  Assertive?

Here’s a simple way to think of the three:

  • Passive = doormat
  • Aggressive = bulldozer
  • Assertive = communicator

In terms of communicating needs, assertive people use the word “I” and aggressive people tend to say “you”. Passive people do NOT express their needs verbally, internalize their feelings, and often become ill (headaches and stomach problems, high blood pressure, etc…) due to this repressed communication.

Example: A person is asked by his/her coworker to stay late to help with a deadline and has important family plans for the evening.

Passive Response ~ *shrugs,rolls eyes and nods, may call family and whine about being late to the family event,  may slam drawers in office or curses quietly so no one else hears, says nothing about the plans and stays late ~ The need is NOT met.

Aggressive Response ~ “you have no right to ask me to do this, it’s because you are not doing your share, this is why we are behind, you will have to take care of this because I have done all I’m going to do, I have plans and am leaving on time.” ~ The need is met at the expense of another person’s feelings.

Assertive Response ~ ” I understand that this deadline is swiftly approaching.  However, I have a very important family event at 7p.m. tonight and cannot be late.  I can come early in the morning and I can help as much as possible until it is time to leave.” ~The need is met. The coworker has to decide how to proceed from this information and may respond passively, aggressively or assertively. Getting needs met assertively doesn’t always ensure that others won’t be upset.  It is taking the “emotion” out of the response and clearly stating the objective.

These are learned behaviors and can be unlearned.  But the FIRST thing that has to happen is, once again, going back to our Heavenly Father and asking for help….help accepting His unconditional love (which heals us and fills us), help in identifying what we are doing that is hurting others or ourselves, and help in learning new ways to communicate our feelings and needs.

An amazing product of accepting God’s unconditional love for us is that our needs change and become healthier.  We no longer operate out of fear of rejection or abandonment.  We no longer hunger for acceptance from people.  We walk in love and people’s hearts soften, relationships heal, and our communication is not guilt ridden or manipulative and controlling.  Thank You, Lord, for loving us “no matter what”!

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