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Overcoming the Struggle Between Passive and Aggressive

Women are usually socialized to be passive, so assertive behaviours can be very uncomfortable and sometimes pretty excruciating. It is also common for women to bounce between two ineffective poles; passive and aggressive.

Passive communicators are indirect, they tiptoe around the message until there isn’t one. Passive communication looks like low self-esteem or even worse, apathy. That does not mean you do not care, it just means you look like you don’t care, which isn’t much better. It sounds like silence, agreement or being overly apologetic. Passive people avoid conflict, keep the peace and meet the needs of others, but they often fail to get their own needs met.

When we are passive, we aren’t honest about our needs and we teach people to take advantage of us. Each time we choose to be passive, we leave a little of piece of ourselves behind which eventually leads to resentment. Passive behaviour builds until we might just snap someone’s head right off! We go from passive to aggressive like a very fast car (you have to agree this is a pretty crazy behaviour). Some do not become aggressive, they just become martyrs instead.

Aggressive behaviour is just the opposite. It is overly direct, loud, intimidating, emotional and demanding. Aggressive communication sounds like blame and it always looks angry. Aggressive people get their needs met at the expense of others.

Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool in your tool box is a hammer, you will tend to treat every problem as if it were a nail.” Aggressive communication is like “Hammers and Nails”. Some women are passive at work and aggressive at home. Every time I hear this, what I think it means is “if they are passive at work, they give their power away and they become aggressive at home to take their power back.” The problem is they end up taking their power from the wrong people. Bouncing between this two poles believe me is exhausting and ends up damaging your relationship and credibility.

Now there are those who are situationally passive. In certain situation or with certain people they feel less confident and that comes through as passive communication. I absolutely guarantee you that you will not build confidence and credibility in those moments.

The most effective communicators are “assertive.” This is a firm, factual, problem-solving communication choice. Assertive communicators fix problems and would never get involved in the blame game. They respect others as much as they respect themselves. They are very honest about what they need, concerned about the needs of others and only use facts not emotions to make their points.

I encourage you to practice assertive communication, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Locate books, trainings or articles that will help you to be more assertive and ultimately more effective in your communication.

Happy Women Equality Day!


About the Writer: Eniola Adeniji is a woman after God’s own heart, a motivational Writer, Speaker, Fashion and Photography addict. She is also a Business Developer, Social Media Manager and the founder of Woman Of Value. She blogs at


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