Aggressive and Assertive: You Can't Be Both

Dr. Purushothaman
September 30, 2013

During a girl's high school finals basketball game, I heard some spectators talking about the youngest player. "She's so aggressive for a small player." Another said, "She jumps so high when rebounding, and comes down with the ball." One watcher must have been to the previous play-off game. He said, "She was high-scorer in the last game. What do you think makes her so good? She's aggressive and fun to watch."

Aggressive or assertive? Confident or angry? What motivates superior performance? What separates the one from the many?

With two minutes and thirty-seven seconds left to the last quarter of the game, our team was losing by 7 points. A win means a day-off from school since the championship game is played at the TDBankNorth Garden in Boston on Monday.

In the last minutes, the youngest player, praised at the beginning of the game, punched an opposing player. Sheer frustration, assertion or anger? Probably sheer frustration and disappointment tainted by aggression. Our youngest player and her teammates did homework Monday night.

Obviously, aggressive behavior instigates disappointment and consequence. The "ref" gave the leading team an automatic two-point penalty shot. With seconds on the clock, the team with 6 players (only one "sub") celebrated. No school on Monday; they were headed to the Boston TDBankNorth Garden. Tuesday morning on page one, above-the-fold, the Boston Globe Sports section proclaimed their divisional championship victory, A remarkable achievement for an inner-city school with six young women who defeated challengers on and off the basketball court.

Aggressive reactions most-often muster harm. Assertive actions express confidence and skill. One may indulge anger while the other excites affirmation. Anger may win occasionally; assertion wins without exception. Oh, you won't win every debate, athletic event, or sales pitch; you will attain confidence and encouragement.

Our life narratives nurture assertion:

*Mom loves me
*Dad loves me
*I had permission to share my opinions
*I had permission to test my talents
*Mom and Dad loved me

If all of us lived assertively, would the world play the game better? Would each player demonstrate skillful technique making the game-of-life more interesting?

My anecdotal experience teaches me that assertion is the inverted euphemism for confidence. Sounds better when we say, "She's confident" in place of "She's assertive." Just the same, assertive behavior springs from the court of confidence. Moments of aggression may occur, but practice and tutoring hones technique and discipline.

So, just where do you acquire these confidence skills? It all starts with Mom and Dad. If they fail at it, someone else will coach you. Of course, acknowledging your need for confidence precedes the possibilities. Once you accept the need, watch people show-up to help you.

So, how do I know parents matter? Well, it is axiomatic. Everyone knows it. When a parent shatters or stifles their child's confidence with abuse, angry acts of aggression often play-out in their child's life.

A friend said, "My Dad criticized me, but I know my Mom and Dad adored me." Not many children describe their parents affection as adoration. Is my friend assertive? Although inherently shy, he travels, writes, and lives his strengths repeatedly and successfully.

What do you do if Mom and Dad, for whatever reasons, misread or ignored Dr. Spock? You forget the past; drop resentment, and work out your own confidence. These beliefs may help.

First: You matter, therefore love yourself.

Second: Others matter, and therefore express love.

Third: You have talents. Identify and live your talents.

Fourth: Knowing your talents, write your purpose or mission. How come you're here?

Fifth: Set goals and tasks to fulfill your purpose or mission.

Undermined or undeveloped confidence can be restored, encouraged, and developed. Every skill takes repetition and effort. Sometimes it's just plain, ordinary, perpetual practice. Get it right during practice, and you'll perform instinctively during the game.

Your life and what you do matter. Take steps to assert yourself. Identify family, friends, and coaches who care about you. With their help, acknowledge your talents. Set goals based on your talents. Write your life mission, and greet each day with a passion to fulfill your purpose or mission. You matter; your contributions matter, and your happiness matters.

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