Submissive Vs. Aggressive Vs. Assertive

The above stated distinct human behaviors often unknowingly confound some of the most articulate among us to no end. There are times when we label people with either one or more of these adjectives, without giving a second thought.

Often enough, we find communities, societies, institutions, and even governments as being too permissive for their tolerance of specific acts, practices, and customs that might be either taboo or too liberal for us. The followers of such uncommon norms get under the scanners of different colored glasses that could label them either way.

We are equally guilty of branding individuals as submissive, aggressive, or assertive without looking into a possible pattern defying such logic. There exists a fine line between the aggressive and the assertive whereas they lead to diametrically opposite outcomes.

  • The submissive individuals often lean towards an immediate compromise with scant regard to consequences. Their primary goal is to avoid confrontation. Naturally, the potential for loss shoots way up when such an individual handles critical negotiations. When the options are limited to fight or flight, the submissive personality finds relief in flight, in the hope of cutting losses. As the saying goes, ‘stop throwing good money after bad money.’ The major contributory factors for such situations lie in the persons’ capability to command critical insights, to gather intelligence on the opposite party and to act with authority.

Often labeled as meek, the submissive individuals accede too much ground to others for fear of imaginary reprisals. They fail to spell out their expectations and rights in a given situation. They will take on way more burden than they can handle, to please everyone coming into their contact.

Often labeled as meek, the submissive individuals accede too much ground to others for fear of imaginary reprisals. They fail to spell out their expectations and rights in a given situation. They will take on way more burden than they can handle, to please everyone coming into their contact.

Almost always apologetic, submissive behavior does not allow them even to claim, leave aside the use of any pressure, what is rightfully their due and they suffer in ignominy. It is the overwhelming fear of displeasing others that drives their lack of a perfect score. No doubt, the psychophants love them because they are easily manipulated, without a whimper. Would you like to be in this category? Please read about the other two before jumping to a conclusion!

  • The aggressive person is a constant hunter looking to find his/her next prey, the next take-over target or the next strategist from the nearest competitor. You can find such individuals in almost every possible environment all the way from an elementary school teacher to a Senator in the Congress. It is NOT a general classification by the longest shot but an example where such behavior is more readily visible. Of course, not everyone falls into this category, but when they do, the stink will spread far and wide. Often labeled as ‘dictators,’ the aggressive person would try every possible means of manipulation to fulfill his/her missions, whether by hook or by crook.

It is not difficult for those commanding this personality trait to look for the meek and the submissive. The evil reputation of aggressive conduct precedes such individuals wherever they go. Just like submissiveness, this behavior also gains strength through the years and takes the shape of a leopard’s stripes. As they grow, darker the lines become. Fight-readiness is their powerful weapon against the possible opposition. They know their rights but give scant regard to the rights of others. Using persuasion, flattery, undue pressure, and even manipulation to get what they want is their second nature. Throwing tantrums and showing signs of disrespect to both individuals and authority is a ploy they use without any shame, regret or remorse.

It is hard to make friends with the aggressive people for the sheer risk of falling prey to their antics when you least expect it. Their sole aim of friendship is manipulation, the age-old terminology: ‘What Is In It For Me,’ period. Their self-serving attitude manifests itself in every situation, from the least important to the most crucial one.

Given the above information, can you make a self-analysis and see whether you too could be approaching the tell-tale signs of such behavior? If yes, the time is now to give yourself a fresh dose of introspection, to review your relationships with those in the same category, and put into place much-needed therapeutic procedures. You will thank yourself for taking the turn now before it gets too late!

Caution: There is an exception to the above characteristics when it comes to business strategies revolving around ‘M&A’, Marketing, and Product Development initiatives. It needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Being assertive has both advantages and disadvantages though the former outweigh the latter. When it comes to delicate relationships, being persuasive often gives better results than being assertive. It is a middle-of-the-road approach that helps overcome an obstacle with ease. You show no signs of either an abject surrender nor an air of trampling upon others’ rights. Your assertiveness as the head of the family helps maintain peace at home because of your analytical approach that sets precedents others get to observe over time.

When endowed with this critical thought-process, you can set out clear expectations. Your approach is direct, and everyone concerned can understand where you are coming from where exactly you want to go. There is no favoritism anywhere since you have already evaluated delegating a specific task for someone to complete. Naturally, you will not take a ‘no’ for an answer as you have maintained proper decorum.

Assertive individuals assert their rights without reservation but, at the same time, they never trample upon the rights of others. It helps them create an atmosphere of hegemony or perfect harmony if you prefer.

As an assertive person, you will never shirk away from either your moral or professional obligations by refusing to help where needed. However, you will also not overburden yourself to the extent that you have no time left to meet your obligations.

The best part of developing an assertive behavior is that it is an easy-to-acquire skill. Keep your emotions out of the equation and use sound analytical techniques instead. To drive home a favorable decision, use a set of necessary information, upgrade your negotiating skills, and learn to justify the position each concerned party holds or enjoys before stating your wish, especially in matters of vital importance or broader ramifications.

I shall be covering negotiating skills in an upcoming post. As such, please stay tuned so you too could drive home certain immensely valuable advantages to take your career to new heights.

Thank You!


Bharat Mathur
Bharat Mathur
WHERE goal setting and systematically achieving each one of them has been the ‘Mantra’, where earning trust by delivering value has been an uncompromising principle and where deeply impactful experiences have made an indelible impression to look directly into the eyes of toughest problems and tackling them head-on has been a major cementing glue in the foundation, Bharat Mathur fits the bill, hands down! Creating value for others, out of the challenges his career in the “C” Suite kept throwing at him left, right and center, Bharat now finds solace in being a ‘Guide by Your Side’ rather than a ‘Sage on the Stage with An Eye on What You Buy’! Past 4 decades of Bharat’s life have been no less eventful than that of anyone else in similar circumstances. However, the way he lived from one challenge to another and stayed focused on his goal is clearly visible as much in his Coaching as in his #1 Best Seller Book: “you Are YOU-nique: Realize Your True Worth”! His next book project tackles ‘Internet of things’ (IoT) from the viewpoint of a layman and helps understand this fast-approaching revolution in simple, easy-to-understand language with live examples: “SMART PHONE + I o T = INCOMPARABLE OPPORTUNITIES” Nurturing a number of successful businesses, mentoring a lot more towards astronomical growth and helping them identify and eradicate trouble spots, Bharat has rightfully earned the nickname: ‘Achiever’ Send him Bouquets or Brickbats, Bharat loves it all!

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  1. Interesting article. One item to consider is the perception of each as it relates the the male/female part of the equation. Many times assertive females are labeled as aggressive because they are expected to be submissive.

    • Thanks a lot, Ms. Raissa, for your valuable observation! Yes, you are absolutely right about the general tendency of considering women as the weaker sex and hence to be more submissive. At the same time, you are also quite on the mark in relation to one’s perception as not all men feel the same way. Thankfully, in the developed contries in general, this trend is quite visible in corporate circles where women occupy enviable positions and steer the mega-coporations to unforeseen succes.