John was taking a class where one of his classmates was intelligent, gregarious and talkative. That student used a lot of the time in class to express her opinions and ask questions. John asked an important question in class and before the instructor could answer, his classmate interrupted with her opinion. John quietly and energetically spoke up and said that he wanted to hear the teacher’s answer.
Mary and her friends held a monthly dinner group to meet for food and conversation. One of the members had special dietary needs and would usually pick the restaurant. After six months, Mary asked the group to consider another restaurant.
After making their desires known, John and Mary worried that they had been aggressive when they spoke up. Most of us are taught that aggression is wrong. We are taught to be good and behave politely and to fear the judgments of other. We worry that people will think badly of us if we speak our mind and look aggressive.
What does it Mean?
Looking at the meaning of aggression may help us understand the term. I found several definitions of aggression, most of which use language that validates the idea that aggression is wrong. Take a look at some of them:
1. Hostile or violent behavior or attitudes toward another; readiness to attack or
2. The action or an act of attacking without provocation
3. Destructive outlook or behavior as an expression of pent-up rage.
4. Forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one's aims and interests.
There are no surprises in these definitions until you get to the last one: forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuits of one’s aims and interest. Here we find a different perspective on aggression: to use energy to pursue one’s aims.
When you look at the synonyms for aggression the meaning expands: confidence, self-confidence, boldness, determination, vigor, energy and zeal. All of these words define actions that are viewed as positive and bring creativity and vitality to life. It creates the possibility that aggression can be seen in a positive light.
Aggression is a Necessary Part of Life
Aggression can be defined as the use of your personal power and energy to cause
forward motion. You are being aggressive every time you make a decision
and act upon it. You are being aggressive every time you say no. You are being
aggressive every time you pursue something that is important to you.
Seeing aggression as using your personal power and energy to move forward provides answers the questions John and Mary had. They were being aggressive in a positive way.
Four Ways Aggression is Positive:
1. Being powerful with others and yourself:
Molly kept forgetting important appointments at work and with friends. She would go shopping and forget important items she needed for the week. She would make a list and lose it. She was having problems oversleeping, not setting her alarm correctly, sleeping through it or simply deciding to snooze five more minutes which turned into an hour. She was struggling until one day she discovered that she was missing a lot of her life. She became frustrated with herself and the part of her that was “making” her forget. She turned the full force of her energy toward changing her behavior and reclaiming her life.
2. Make simple, nonjudgmental remarks:
When Mary did not want to do what her group suggested, she asked the group to consider something different rather than criticizing their choices. You can make non-attacking remarks such as, “That doesn’t feel right to me” or “I would like for us to consider other options.” That way everyone is given the time to consider
their ideas and perspectives.
3. Ask for what you need:
John was feeling annoyed with his classmate. Instead of burying his feelings, he asked for what he wanted and needed. Keep it simple, polite and confident.
4. Accomplish your goals:
In an article describing how tennis player Martin Klizan beat Novak Djokovic, the
article stated, “The 28-year-old Klizan... took the first set in impressive fashion, a combination of aggression and a deft touch proving too good for his opponent.”
Aggression can be positive or negative, it depends on how you use it. Positive
aggression is considered to be healthy, productive behavior that promotes the basic
values of survival, protection, happiness, social acceptance, preservation, and intimate relations. It is something that everyone needs in order to move forward in life.
Are you confused about the role of aggression in your life? I can help, call me at