Business Communication: Where is the Line Between Being Assertive and Aggressive?

Modern shifts seem to influence not only the way people conduct business but how they communicate. How often do you, a customer or potential client, get emails or calls from people with different offers? I bet you get them often. Some of them are appealing; others offer you something. However, certain messages may annoy you […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Modern shifts seem to influence not only the way people conduct business but how they communicate. How often do you, a customer or potential client, get emails or calls from people with different offers? I bet you get them often. Some of them are appealing; others offer you something. However, certain messages may annoy you due to their aggressive or pushy approach. 

Having encountered this issue in my content outreach experience, I decided to research it and define the line between assertiveness and aggression in communication. What are the red flags for future cooperation, and how to approach your target in a healthy way? 

Assertive behavior

First of all, what is assertive behavior? There are many notions, especially concerning different types of communication. Yet, the common thread that unites all of them is respect. People have certain boundaries that, if crossed, the actions will trigger adverse reactions. 

Assertive communication is the expression of the ideas or thoughts directly within the concepts of Honesty, Appropriateness and Respect. Effects of business communication that have them at the core can bring benefits. Yet, if the message is too straightforward, it can lead to obstruction of communication instead of being effective. 

Pushy behavior

Compared to the healthy way of negotiating, the particular one involves ignoring other people’s wishes and boundaries. One of the definitions of aggressive behavior suggests that a person would try to win at all costs, showing no empathy and denying other people’s rights.

Real-life example: Aggressive behavior on point

Let’s consider the vivid example that one of my colleagues happened to experience. Say, his name is Mr Jones. He was called by the marketing managers with the offer for the fourth time in one month. After the first call, Jones said, “I am not interested, thank you”. Upon the second and third one, they were insisting on offering additional value, information and promotions. 

The fourth time, my colleague, knowing how sales teams work, confronted them. He asked, “You know my name?” and continued, “I assume that you do. Open your CRM, delete my name, and leave a note ‘Don’t mess with Jones’ for other managers”. 

As you may suggest, he was using a more strong word I decided to replace for the sake of appropriateness. Is this an example of aggressive behavior? For sure, from both of the parties. 

It illustrates not only the ignorance of the wishes of other people but the evident effect of the invasive approach – aggression trigger. That is why I do only 3 follow ups in my email outreach.

For sure, a marketer could say that sales managers make such cold calls all the time. However, the particular company crossed the line making the communication inappropriate. In personal communication, pushy behavior is about “me and ego”. Within the business realm, it is concerned solely with business, profit, impatience, and arrogance.

Crossing no Lines: How to Do Communication Right

What is the assertive and not pushy message, then? From my experience, a diplomatic approach with tact, listening, attention, and curiosity is a basis for appropriate communication. These concepts can let you design a message that will be welcoming and yet confident, led by the goal. Sure, your objective is to sell a product, ask for a favor or start cooperation. 

However, do not lie to yourself; business rules contemplate that you get benefit with the least effort possible. Productivity and effectiveness are priorities. You may have time limits, pressure from the boss, or a lack of funds. All these can influence you, yet, should not impact your message and make it pushy.

I work a lot with outreach, both as a sender and receiver, and try to implement only healthy practices. Before all, I am not a saint, as the outreach is not perfect. Many consider it to be annoying. 

How would you react to a writer knocking on your door and asking to read his article? If it is a workplace, you would ask a receptionist to say that you went for dinner or were busy. 

If someone knocks on your home or your holiday room door, what would you do? Right, send them away. Why? It is unprofessional and violates all the things mentioned before.

In my defense, I would say that I use a business email finder that looks for corporate emails. I fully understand that people would be cautious about messages from a person they don’t know. Besides, people usually keep their emails, phone numbers, and addresses under the radar. However, there is still a way to do it right.

Approach with tact 

The importance of business communication comes from the impact on the sender. If you want to make the right impression even though your email will intrude on the recipient’s box, you should prepare your message and introduction. It comes in line with a tip on assertiveness: underline what your message really conveys, not the meaning one may think. Thus, show empathy and understanding of the situation.

Listen and observe to understand the needs

Assertiveness requires keeping boundaries. For this purpose, you should know them. Following, you either listen to them or do research. What for? To understand their needs and look from their viewpoint. If you know them, you can start with the answer to their demands, developing their interest. 

Be attentive and curious

Assertive communication in outreach is about showing confidence in what you offer and being attentive to the recipient. I mean paying attention to the recipient and designing an approach with the belief that you can help each other. Yet, it requires curiosity and readiness to explore their profiles or answers.

Summing up, there is a clear line between assertive and aggressive communication. I would say that it refers to respect for the recipient and the appropriateness of the message. Be confident, but don’t overstep boundaries.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    4 Quotes from Powerful Women on Assertiveness

    by Dawn Killough
    Community//

    Learn to be Assertive & Not Rigid

    by Sakshi Vaashiisht
    Community//

    Why You Need To Be Assertive In Your Relationships

    by Jillian and Jan Yuhas
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.