Have you been labelled with arrogance, aggression & assertiveness? How submissive are you? Can you “elegantly” get what you want? Can you differentiate?
Arrogance Aggression Assertiveness (Audio)
How assertive or submissive are you? Are you known for how “elegantly” you can get what you want? Have you ever been “labelled” arrogant? Are there times when you are overly aggressive? How clearly are you able to differentiate these? How do you manage to relate to people with these behaviour traits?
I often have clients ask me to help them with “being more assertive” but how not transcend that into being seen as aggressive or arrogant, and so I thought that might be useful to a broader audience in the form of a blog.
In business we need to exert our influence in order to drive the outcomes we need to achieve, particularly when we are in leadership positions, but just as much in any day to day role we have been designated, don’t we? Of course our position in the “pecking order” will often play a role how much influence we can assert or where we might have to employ significantly greater assertiveness or diplomacy or influencing skills in order to “get our way”. It is the calibration of these degrees of influence I wish to address in this article.
So what are arrogance, aggression or assertiveness and what differentiates them?
So let’s understand their pro’s and con’s and their differences by looking at each one. Those of you that know me will know that I like to move from the “worst to the best”, so I’ll start with arrogance and end with assertiveness because that’s the way I see these in terms of being the closest to the way I value behaviour.
Arrogance can be defined as having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability, etc; being too conceited; overbearingly proud; making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; insolently proud.
If I were to ask you to think of someone that you consider arrogant, what typical behaviours come to mind for you? Could they be things like:
- Their haughty posture and perhaps swaggering walk, and seeming lack of humility?
- Their pre-occupation with themselves and their own importance and them not wanting ever to be seen in “a bad light”? Always needing to be the centre of attraction or attention?
- Their preference for telling rather than asking, so that they aren’t seen as not knowing something or being seen as “weak”?
- That listening isn’t often one of their strengths nor do they have too much awareness of the needs of others?
- That they like to be in control and often defensive of their position, intolerant and lacking sensitivity of other’s positions?
- Not being very approachable
Altogether not really a list of very nice attributes, is it? Would you agree with me that they can also be seen as more superficial, and more pre-occupied with their own popularity than having strong friendships. I have also found that there isn’t much room for empathy or open mindedness to see things from different people’s perspectives, right?
It has been my experience as a coach and mentor, that people with such an arrogant front are often masking a lack of confidence in themselves or their ability with this sort of behaviour.
In case you are wondering whether, when and how you might display arrogance, other than asking for feedback from (a) trusted source(s) I would suggest that when I feel the need to “show that I know”, that I am potentially knocking on the door to arrogance. With such an awareness I can practice Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself to assess whether there might not be a more elegant approach to what I am trying to do.
The other technique I am mindful of is that when I observe and notice overly arrogant behaviour in another person, then it’s time to “hold up a mirror” and assess what it is in that other person’s behaviour I don’t like in my own behaviour. Please remember that for us to notice a trait in another, it has to be present in ourselves first, OK?
Whilst too much humility can’t be good for our Visibility it can also be a sign of lacking confidence and a cop-out for “stepping up”. But is there really a justifiable place for arrogance?
Aggression can be defined as a disposition towards behaviour that is forceful, hostile or attacking, occurring either in retaliation or without provocation; acts intended to increase relative social dominance; making an all-out effort to win or succeed; being overly competitive.
Whilst aggressive behaviour can be found in people labelled as arrogant, not all arrogant people are aggressive.
Aggression in my experience is based on different premises. Aggressive behaviour is often confrontational. It can result from extremely pressured situations, where the incumbent doesn’t see too many options – that they feel trapped or “boxed into a corner” and think that aggression may be their only way out. For instance we might see aggressive behaviour in the traffic – sometimes resulting in “road rage” that can come from extreme impatience or massive pressure to have to be somewhere important on time.
I would suggest that aggressive behaviour can also be a tactic or a strategy to mask insecurities or lacking in confidence. It is certainly not sustainable as an ongoing type of behaviour, without leading to that person being ostracised by others.
Similar to arrogance, aggressive behaviour can often be seen in more dominant personalities, like I described in Personality Plus… where the more choleric or “high D” or the more melancholic or “high C” personalities in the DISC model are the ones that are more task than they are people oriented. They would often be less tolerant, less open minded, less prone to asking – preferring to “tell” and more focused on their required outcome (the task) than taking other perspectives or viewpoints, let alone the feeling of others into account.
None of us like to have to tolerate aggressive or pushy behaviour, do we? Very few people enjoy dealing with a “hard sell” and in my experience it doesn’t do very much for “repeat business”
Assertiveness is defined as a form of behaviour characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person’s rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one’s rights or point of view
Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others, whereas aggressive people attack or ignore others’ opinions in favor of their own.
Assertiveness is being firm, but polite and maintaining the goodwill of the others in ways that respect the personal boundaries of others. Assertiveness occurs with empathy.
To me it means standing up for your interests calmly and effectively, in a way that is most likely to elicit the desired behaviours from others. Assertive people are also willing to defend themselves against aggressive people. Assertive people are often able to maintain a calm but nonetheless strong position, supported by their Presence, which projects a strong inner confidence.
I have found in my coaching that some people need to go through steps or stages towards assertiveness. In such cases they might start from a position of lacking confidence in themselves and so perceive that they would struggle to assert themselves. There are a number of techniques and approaches we coaches can take to have the client build their confidence first and then embark on developing means of asserting themselves without having to “change their personalities”.
I have learned that assertiveness can be coupled with tolerance and Patience and that the assertive achievement of an outcome can sometimes also afford to be crafted over time and not have to be aggressively pushed through. It can still be a dogged, not negotiable but skillful process where a firm but always diplomatic and friendly approach guides the others to the required outcome; one that more often than not will experience a greater degree of “buy-in”. To me assertiveness has “elegance” to it that I find very appealing.
In my negotiation grooming my clients learn that it is also quite customary from time to time and in the right circumstances, for such a more “gentle” approach to be complemented with a short but tactically aggressive thrust in order to overcome an important barrier. It is that it appears so uncharacteristic of the general demeanour of the assertive person that this tactic probably has its greatest power as I wrote in Surprise!.
I came from a conditioned “passive” personality background and had to learn how to assert myself. That worked best for me to intellectually understand the necessary dynamics and then to practise them until they worked for me; which suggests that assertiveness can be learned, and I have successfully worked with many clients to enhance their assertiveness.
What I have learned is that arrogance and aggression aren’t sustainable behaviour traits if you want to relate successfully to most people, and to exert your influence, both personally and professionally. I have learned to be aware of such behaviours in others, but also to notice when I may display tendencies to succumb to them in response.
To my way of thinking success is usually influenced by and accompanied by authenticity: “to thine own self be true”. So that doesn’t mean to become somebody you aren’t, but I believe it does mean that we don’t need to remain trapped in behaviour overly influenced by our conditioning; that we can learn to adapt our behaviour to reflect more “who we really are” and to be “the best that we can be”.
If this blog has made you more aware of certain behaviour tendencies in yourself that you aren’t happy with, if you might feel you run the risk of being arrogant or too pushy or aggressive or if you perceive or believe yourself to not be assertive enough, why not engage the services of a coach? I am sure that you will be so glad you did. What if you could?