• Matt

Aggression, Assertiveness & the Goldilocks Principle

Updated: Jan 9

Assertiveness is in the middle of two extremes of communication style: submissive and aggressive.

When we're submissive, we give in. We are passive and may not think our needs matter or even have the right to have them. We may have trouble saying 'no'. When we are communicating submissively, we are primarily depriving ourselves.

When we're aggressive, on the other hand, we are in 'attack-mode', where other's needs do not matter, even to the point of violence. We may have trouble hearing 'no'. When we are communicating aggressively, we are primarily depriving others.

Neither of these communication extremes are helpful, even if we believe them to be and think we are getting what we want. In fact, they are both destructive. Were all your past arguments a fair fight? Were both of you being respected? Did you really get what you want?

If we express ourselves in a healthy, non-destructive way, we are being assertive. It's when we're able to put across what we're thinking and feeling, asserting our needs, values and beliefs. We do this by standing up for ourselves whilst respecting one another.

When you want to be assertive, bear in mind the The Goldilocks Principle (no pun intended). We're looking for 'adaptive moderation' - a balance: not too hot, not too cold, but 'just right' (Shapiro, 2020).

There's lots of different reasons why we might behave and communicate in varying degrees of submissiveness and aggression. Overcoming any anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem or anger issues, and developing good communication skills, all help us become more assertive.

Having problems getting what you want? Is your self-esteem causing your problems? Do you find it difficult to say 'no'? Or is your aggression causing emotional or physical harm to others? Contact us today to find out how we can help.


Shapiro, J. (2020). Finding Goldilocks: A guide for creating balance in personal change, relationships, and politics. Beachwood: Amazon.

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