A friend of mine broke this down for me one day. She said..."Being assertive is protecting and enforcing your own boundaries. Being aggressive is encroaching on others' boundaries."
I love this description! My classes, particularly the ones geared toward women and younger students, are focused on developing methods and techniques for protecting your comfort zones and defending your personal boundaries. This is something that comes naturally to some, while it requires dedicated training and repetition for others.
Do you consider yourself assertive? Can you, if you need to, use a stern voice, look a person in the eyes and state clearly...."You need to give me some space!"
This simple, assertive gesture makes a clear statement. It says..."I am a person that means business." "I am a person that is not to be toyed with." "I am a fighter."
Some people consider these types of direct statements to be rude. I do not! If this is being rude, then so is stating your preferences and needs clearly and plainly. Give yourself permission to be "rude."
I saw a friend of mine stiffen up and say "No..." to a neighbor that approached and asked "Can I talk to you for a minute?" He did not honor the "No..." response, and moved ahead with his monologue. I had no information, no background, no story to associate this communication with, but I had all the information I needed. My presence went from my usual personable, jovial body language--to something a bit more direct. No action was necessary, but I took the lack of respect for the clear answer..."No..."...very seriously.
You should do the same. Your body language and statements are delivering a message. If they are not honored in full, learn how to use more assertive messages. Folding under this type of bullying gives the wrong message.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!