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  • Writer's pictureAnessa Collins

Ditching "Difficult"

Updated: Mar 30

You might feel like you can't win at work when it comes to trying to strike a balance between protecting your own needs and being a team-player. Maybe you have simply given up because it seems impossible to get off the hamster wheel of being "liked" or "labeled." Can you really start setting boundaries and navigating tough conversations at work without being labeled as "difficult?" I invite you for a moment to believe you can and read on.

What if I told you that getting crystal clear about how being assertive and being aggressive can help you get off the hamster wheel and reduce your stress level? We often mistake being assertive with being aggressive and because of this the relationship with ourselves and/or others can suffer.

Imagine a straight line. On the left end of the line is PASSIVE. On the right end of the line is AGGRESSIVE. In the middle of the line is ASSERTIVE and the place we can actually find balance between our interpersonal needs and the needs of others. Let's call this the "assertiveness continuum."

When you are passive in your communications at work, the relationship you have with yourself is impacted by feelings of low self-worth-that your needs are not important. Often this shows up as constant stress (perceived and real) and can be moderate or extreme. Many of my clients say that their more passive approach at work has made their stress level "unmanageable" and that they know they are being overlooked for career opportunities because of it.

When you are aggressive in your communications, the relationships you have with others can be tough to maintain overtime, leading to feelings of isolation and rejection. Often this shows up as not being able to make progress with collaborators, partners or others who can help you grow your business or career. Relationships start but then they stop and you aren't sure what happened.

There is only ONE thing that truly separates aggression from assertiveness. One powerful emotional skill that when in balance can change your entire experience at work.


Standing in the shoes of the other person and sharing what they are feeling is an important step toward being assertive rather than "difficult i.e. aggressive." When we make the intentional effort to stand in the shoes of someone else we move out of our own feelings and our biggest learning center (emotional domain) into a place of equality with others. In a nutshell, we bring balance to our empathy and move toward the middle of the straight line-the assertiveness continuum, mentioned above. Here we find more peace and the opportunity to build relationship.

They key to using empathy is focusing on balancing it and being curious. I invite you to consider the following:

  • What is the impact to you when your empathy for others is extremely high or low?

  • How can you bring balance to it and protect both the relationship with yourself and the relationship with others?

  • Who can you talk to that can help you collect the facts and evidence about a situation?

  • Where are you at on the assertiveness continuum in the midst of the scenario?

Ditching difficult and truly decreasing your stress level is entirely within your grasp when you begin with curiosity rather than judgement and you pause to identify what is going on for you.

Be heard at work and love yourself.



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