The 4 Characters – Aggressive, Passive, Indirectly aggressive & Assertive


The aggressive person is competitive with an implicit or explicit goal to emerge as a winner, consequently someone has to lose. Winning may be achieved by putting others down or over-riding their feelings, wishes or rights. Low self esteem means not being able to afford to consider another’s point of view and conflict or confrontation may result in an outright attack with verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. Often over reacting to situations, this individual commonly leaves behind a trail of hurt and humiliated feelings. People may not express these feeling directly, through fear of provoking another onslaught, but are likely to harbour resentment.


A doormat, the person who behaves passively makes ideal fodder for the aggressive individual. Passive people often see themselves as victims of unfairness and injustice at the hand of other people/fate/God. They may have difficulty in making decisions and so opt out leaving others to take responsibility for their decision. Those around often resent the passivity. People may begin by wanting to help but then feel guilty or perplexed because whatever they do is not enough, and as the passive individual clings to hard luck stories, would be helpers lose patience and avoid contact. This person’s outlook is negative and frustrates both self and others with an attitude of resignation and lack of will power. Faced with any kind of confrontation the most likely responses are to run away, give in or cry.

Indirectly aggressive

(Passive/Aggressive): The person who behaves in this way has very low self esteem, cannot risk a direct approach, is afraid of ‘exposure’ and needs to control and manipulate those around to avoid confrontation and the risk of rejection. Deceiving self and others, most needs are met by the subtle means of making others feel guilty if they do not do whatever it is the person wants. Although they may appear to think highly of those around, it is possible to detect an undercurrent of disapproval which leaves people feeling confused and frustrated. Attacks from this person are concealed (unlike the openly aggressive attack) which makes it difficult for others to pin it down and deal with it. A person behaving indirectly will deny their feelings and wriggle away leaving others feeling puzzled, thwarted and guilty.


An assertive person respects the people they deal with. The are increasingly able to accept their own ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ personal characteristics and therefore can be more genuinely accepting of others. They do not feel the need to put others down because the do not feel the need to win and in addition do not believe others are responsible for their lives: they can accept responsibility for their own choices and behaviour. Someone who behaves assertively can acknowledge their own needs and ask to have those needs met honestly and openly, even though they risk refusal and rejection. If refused, the person is not totally demolished because their self esteem is anchored deeply within themselves; it is not dependant on the approval of others. This person can set limits assertively so that other people know exactly where they stand. Such an individual is able to respond sincerely to others, giving themselves credit for what they understand and feel.

  • I know what I want and usually get it
  • Its kill or be killed
  • Other people know what I’m like and have to put up with me
  • I don’t suffer fools gladly – I like to win
  • I prefer to keep quiet and not be outspoken
  • If I don’t rock the boat I’ll be OK
  • I don’t always know what I want so I usually let others decide
  • I’d rather not cause a fuss but I feel that people ignore me
  • I like being involved in whats going on
  • I work to live, not live to work
  • I work out what I want, listen to others, then discuss plans
  • I like people to know how I feel
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