the difference between words: aggressive and assertive

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Today one of my students got mixed up between the words “aggressive” and “assertive”, so that’s what I’d like to write about this week.

If we say someone is “aggressive”, it sounds like the person is extremely forceful and could possibly be dangerous or violent. However, if we say someone is “assertive”, it means that they will say what they think strongly or will try to get what they want, but it doesn’t sound like they are violent or dangerous. Here are some examples:

I don’t like Jerry when he’s drunk because he gets really aggressive. Last time, he started a fight with another guy.

My brother is a really aggressive driver, so I hate being in the car when he’s driving.

If you want to get a raise from your boss, you should be more assertive. If I were you, I’d just ask my boss for the raise directly.

Pam is a very successful salesperson because she’s smart, charming and assertive.

In my third example sentence, I talked about “a raise”. This word means a salary increase.

So, the word “aggressive” is very negative, but the word “assertive” is positive. Please be careful not to call someone “aggressive” if you want to say something positive about them. In those cases, you should always use the word “assertive”.

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