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Aggressive Style Of Communication | How To Be More Assertive? [Series 2/4]

The Aggressive Style Of Communication


Aggressive style of communication


Over the years, I have been working with thousands of professionals trying to improve their communication skills. I thought it was about time to regroup some essentials in mini-series blog articles.


I am pleased to introduce you to the second chapter of this mini-series "The Styles of Communication":


We can all benefit from developing a greater awareness of how we communicate and the impact our communication styles have on our relationships.


This month, we will study the aggressive style of communication.


“Why should I care about my communication style and how I communicate with others?”

This is a typical question for an aggressive communicator! Communication is always two people’s problems, and we can all benefit from greater mindfulness around our communication habits and communication mistakes. In each situation, no matter the miscommunication or the misunderstanding, both the sender and the receiver of a message could have done a better job at sending or receiving this message. Part of those communication improvements are directly linked to our styles of communication, and, through better awareness and a little adjustment, we can all advance our communication skills to influence and negotiate more effectively and build rapport while developing stronger lasting relationships.




From aggressive communication to developing your communication skills and understanding people’s communication better


Developing your communication skills and understanding others better are the two main reasons why you should read those communication skills articles. Perhaps you are finding this article because you recognise yourself in this style of communication and you are trying to better yourself and improve your soft skills.


You will find that many things here resonate with you and hopefully gain some hands-on tips and tools to improve your communication skills. Maybe you are trying to better understand someone close to you, at work or home; and good on you for taking this initiative. When struggling to communicate with someone, it is always a good idea to figure out your interlocutor’s preference as well as find opportunities to improve your own communication skills.


No matter your motivations, you are in the right place if you are trying to advance your communication skills through a better understanding of the styles of communication:


You may be reading this single article only or all the articles from this mini-series. If you are wondering in which sequence, you should read them, do not worry, any order you like is right for you (as long as you end up reading the keys to develop your assertiveness.



What is there for me? A key question for aggressive communicators

Enough background and general information or I will lose my aggressive readers! Aggressive communicators like when it is about them, and they have little time and patience to consider things that don’t immediately help them answer the question “What is there for me”. Do not worry aggressive communicators, there is plenty here for you; some you will like, some… you will see.



Me, me, me, all about me: aggressive communicators are self-centred.

That is it. I said it. My apologies to all the aggressive styles of communication who are reading this article today (including my husband), aggressive communicators, you are self-centred. I am not calling you selfish (yet), you are self-oriented, self-motivated, and self-centred. Your world and your focus are all turning around you. And in one way, I say well done and most people find you brave for your focus.


I spend time daily with clients assisting them in finding their voice and developing their assertiveness through what I call “healthy selfishness”. Aggressive communicators have just been taken to the next level with little to no consideration for the people around them, and that is the trap of this style of communication.


You get it now: if we help passive communicators find their voice and aggressive communicators care for others, we will get assertive and excellent communicators!

How to recognise the aggressive style of communication in self and others?


When we think of the aggressive style of communication, we immediately think of loud shouting voices, rude attitudes, and conflicting personalities. While we may not be wrong, the aggressive style of communication is more complex than that.


Yes, we will easily recognise this style in others, when people openly misbehave and fall into those cliches, but it will also be recognised through more subtle signs. As per all the styles of communication, the aggressive style of communication is easily recognised through the person’s focus. You can refer to our first article of this mini-series the passive style of communication, where I explain in more detail the differences in each style and how to recognise them in self and others.


Someone with an aggressive style of communication is mainly focused on self with little to no consideration for what is there for others. Do not get me wrong, it does not make them unpleasant with constant poor behaviour. Some of them are really charming, while still always caring for their best outcome in each situation.



The aggressive communicator is all about “my needs, my desires and my expectations”.

People with an aggressive style of communication focus on their needs, their desires, and their expectations, without thinking for too long about what is there for others. Their default thoughts will turn to what is there for them and they will need extra efforts to start considering things from other people’s perspective.



The aggressive communicator uses a louder voice and more vivid body language.

As I stated before, do not represent yourself aggressive communicators yelling and being infuriated all the time; although, it will more likely happen to them than to passive communicators who are more submissive.


Aggressive communicators, in opposition to more passive ones, will definitely be louder than others and will use the space and their body language more intensively.



Aggressive communicators are tougher negotiators.

While it can be an advantage in some discussions, aggressive communicators tend to compete more than others when involved in negotiations. It can be an asset when the outcome is important and the short-term is to prevail. However, in the long run, it can damage relationships and poorly impact personal branding and reputation.



Additional traits of aggressive communicators are listed below (non-exhaustive list)

Aggressive communicators will:

  • interrupt others,

  • vent out loud without thinking of “what is there for my audience,

  • say “I” more than “we”,

  • often have something to say to correct others,

  • like to complain about things (everything)

  • often be impatient,

  • be bad listeners,

  • be hard to coach,

  • benefit from self-awareness.

… the list can go on and on.



What are the limits of being aggressive in communication?


Reputation

The main negative impact of being an aggressive communicator is the toll it has on personal branding and reputation. Being seen as self-centred and self-serving is never good for long-lasting relationships and many people will avoid aggressive communicators when they have a choice.


Seen as negative individuals.

As aggressive communicators are hardly ever satisfied, they always find something to complain about or to criticise, impacting their reputation. At your coffee break, would you rather spend a nice 5-minute talking about outdoor activities and fun things or hear your aggressive colleague complain about one more irrelevant topic?


Career development and promotions

As an impact of this attitude, aggressive communicators may see their careers being impacted with some promotions being offered to other candidates with greater soft skills. Who will hire a people leader with an aggressive attitude? It hardly demonstrates a servant leadership style with coaching skills for managers!


Repetitive conflicts

An additional limit aggressive communicators will face is their tendency to be involved in conflicts and, once again, the toll it has on their reputation. When collaborating with passive communicators, it is easy for aggressive communicators to take the lead and get the advantage. When facing assertive or other aggressive communicators, things get more complicated for our aggressive friends.




What are the advantages of being an aggressive communicator?


I would be tempted to say none, but you would call me biased so I will give you one. Aggressive communicators will benefit from their style in one context, for fast turnaround and quick results. Just as with competitive negotiators (stay tuned for our future blog post on Influencing and negotiation skills), aggressive communicators may enjoy fast results to their demands in the short term.


In the long run, they will damage the relationships and burn bridges with people resenting them and refusing to work with them.



How to develop assertiveness when you are an aggressive communicator?


In addition to reading our post on assertiveness, you will find some hands-on keys for aggressive communicators looking at becoming more assertive below.


1. Change your focus.

Stop focusing on yourself only and start focusing on others too. I am not asking you to stop focusing on yourself and to become passive. I am recommending that you start looking at things from others’ perspectives to open your mind and ease your relationships.


2. Watch your tone of voice.

You may think that you are coming across nicely and calmly, but you are coming across aggressively or too intensively. When telling a story, remember that the person in front of you is not responsible for what happened or how it made you feel.


3. Developing active listening skills

Aggressive communicators are not known to be the best listeners. Start proving us wrong and develop active listening skills. Decide to listen, give people your full attention, do not multitask, and stop your internal dialogue to listen to understand, not to respond.



4. Develop your patience.

We know, you are impatient, but you already know what you are about to say, give people a chance to surprise you and accept to just be in the moment. Practice mindfulness and meditation to pace yourself and develop your patience.


5. Give others a chance to speak up.

Have you ever noticed how your aggressive style shuts people down? How do passive communicators have no chance to speak their minds when you are around? Change this tendency and give others some room to vent, you will be happy to see how many good ideas they have to share!


6. Prepare for your communication.

If you are very busy and always multitasking, it will be hard to develop your mindfulness in communication and you will remain a mind full! Important conversations deserve time and attention: Why are you communicating? To whom are you communicating? What are your communication mistakes to watch for?



Mind full or mindful drawing by Forbesoste
Mind full or mindful drawing by Forbesoste


7. Assess what you will say.

Proof-check your talking points from a communication style perspective. Did you take the time to balance their needs and expectations with yours? Are you framing your thoughts in a kind and considerate way for both parties?


8. Reflect on challenging discussions.

After a tense discussion, reflect on your approach and find opportunities to ease your future similar interactions.


9. Remain focused on your progress.

We do not develop excellent communication skills overnight. You are working against a lifetime of habits; you can change, and you can progress, if you allow time and keep your dedication to positive change.


10. Ask for regular feedback and continue your progress.

Do not shy away from feedback on your journey. Enjoy the pleasant comments and learn from the ones you want to fight back. Once again, remember that you are asking for feedback, do not be rude to the messenger.



If I stop being aggressive, will people stop listening to me?


This question is very legitimate and relevant for someone with a passive style of communication. Part of the reasons that influenced the creation of such a style of communication is the feeling of not being heard and the need to be more aggressive to get what one needs. When developing more assertiveness, people with an aggressive style of communication often fear becoming “too soft”, or “too kind”, and lose their credibility and respect both at work and at home.


This final (and fair) resistance is a trap from your long-lasting habit that is trying to stick with you as a self-defence pattern. By remaining focused on your motivations in developing an assertive communication style, you will be able to overcome those lasting limiting beliefs.



Hands-on exercise for aggressive communicators


A good exercise to engage in when such thoughts play in your mind is to reflect on past situations when your aggressive style of communication made the situation worse and when you extended the resolution time by remaining focused on your needs and expectations.



Another hands-on exercise for aggressive communicators


Another idea to challenge your resisting thoughts is to ask the people around you how your aggressive style of communication is affecting them and how often it makes the situation more complicated than it is.


If you dare to go further, ask them about how it makes them feel and really listen to their responses. As you are not the best listener, aim to LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND, NOT TO RESPOND. Do not justify yourself, do not become defensive, and remember, you are the one who asked for feedback here.



What if I recognise myself in multiple styles of communication from passive to aggressive?


If you haven't picked on that yet, you may recognise yourself in different styles of communication, including all of those. Different people and situations will trigger different things in you and will make you adapt your communication style, your focus, and your behaviour based on different factors.


You may find yourself quite assertive at home or with your peers and subordinates at work, and more passive with your senior executive leaders.


Similarly, you may be quite assertive at work and quite passive or passive-aggressive with some family members. The goal of those articles is to assist you in developing awareness of your communication skills and areas of improvement and provide you with hands-on tools to develop your assertiveness and find your voice in a kind and considerate manner.


You may recognise yourself in different styles of communication, but there are big chances that one is louder than the others. Think about it…


In which situations are you more involved? Peaceful win/win discussions through an assertive style? Tensed conflictive discussions with a competitive and aggressive approach? Or regrets for not voicing your needs and ending up with too much on your plate because of your passiveness and submissive style of communication?


That’s it, you found your dominant style; that is the one you want to overcome first. Watch for the signs that characterise this style while developing assertive habits. You will then focus on the secondary styles to perfect your communication skills.



What’s next with the styles of communication mini-series?


Stay tuned to read our article on the passive-aggressive style of communication before finding our best tips and recommendations on how to develop your assertiveness and find your (kind) voice.


Why is it taking me so long you may ask?

Because, as per any study and research, it takes time to collect some data, observe behaviour, adjust the results of my research, and provide you with the best resume. Thank you for your patience and loyalty dear readers.



Maud Vanhoutte




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