The difference between being assertive and aggressive

As the snow continues to fall in the South of the country customer service operatives will be under increasing pressure to deliver services that are desperately needed.

Today’s blog gives a quick summary of the crucial difference between being assertive as distinct from being aggressive or submissive.

Assertiveness is a term given to behaviour that comes from a belief that your needs or wants are AS important as those of other people.

The alternative to this belief is that your needs are either LESS (submissive) or MORE (aggressive) important than those of other people.  Thinking your needs are less important often leads to passive or accommodating behaviour and thinking your needs are more important generally leads to aggressive behaviour.


This is when you stand up for yourself in a way that does not violate another person physically, mentally or emotionally.  It results in honest, open and direct expression of your point of view which at the same time, shows that you see the other person’s point of view.

Assertiveness means behaving in a mature way in all situations and anyone you meet.  It is a way of communicating how we feel about a situation and what we desire to happen.  To be able to do this we have to be clear ourselves.  We have to know how we feel and know what we want to happen.  We also have to give the other person a chance to say how they feel and what they want to happen.  By being clear about where we stand, we are more able to discuss the issue and reach agreement.


This results when you fail to stand up for yourself or communicate in such a way that others can easily disregard you or your views and desires.  It shows when you express your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in apologetic, cautious or self-effacing ways or if you fail to express your views or feelings altogether.


Aggression is based on the belief that your opinions are more important than other people’s.  It is demonstrated by accusing, blaming or patronising others and showing contempt or hostility.

This is demonstrated when you stand up for yourself in such a way that you violate another person physically, mentally or emotionally.  It also happens when you express thoughts, feelings and beliefs in unsuitable and inappropriate ways, even though you may honestly believe those views to be ‘right’.

An assertive approach reflects the way we behave in our relationships with other people.  It is about developing relationships based on honesty and openness.


It is vitally important to be assertive in customer service and not come across as either passive or aggressive.  Passive behaviour will ultimately end in a customer service operative being bullied and potentially promising something which cannot be delivered.

Aggressive behaviour will lead to customers feeling as if they have been bullied and this will have an adverse effect both immediately and in the long term too.

Make sure that you are clear about what you want to happen but always keep the balance with empathising with the other person’s needs and desires.  This is most definitely a skill that needs to be mastered and comes with practice.  Once you have cracked it your dealings with customers will become that much easier and less stressful for both parties.

GA offer assertiveness courses as part of their diverse portfolio of customer service training courses.  Call us on 0845 130 5714 to discuss your needs in more detail.


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