google define: 1. ready or likely to attack or confront; characterised by or resulting from aggression. 2. behaving or done in a determined and forceful way.

Going off the above definitions I don't think it is, but depends on context?

e.g. Jim from accounting is very aggressive, he doesn't take any crap from anyone. (I see how assertive would fit better here but can 'aggressive' be used to convey same meaning?)

Is 'assertive' a nicer way of describing the same traits or does it have an entirely different meaning?

This article seems to think that it is very negative but I'm not convinced. https://englishhelponline.me/2011/09/09/the-difference-between-words-aggressive-and-assertive/

  • 1
    I would understand 'Jim is very aggressive' to mean that he tends to initiate angry confrontations. Jan 21, 2019 at 13:07
  • Aggressiveness is encouraged, respected and praised in many contexts, for example muckraking or salesmanship.
    – Zebrafish
    Jan 21, 2019 at 14:02
  • @Zebrafish not to mention many sports.
    – JeffUK
    Jan 21, 2019 at 15:53
  • To be honest, I'd just go with "Jim from accounting doesn't take any crap from anyone"
    – JeffUK
    Jan 21, 2019 at 15:53
  • @KateBunting fair enough, but is context important? what about 'Jim is a great kickboxer, he's very aggressive and dominant in the ring
    – Arthur
    Jan 21, 2019 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


Aggressive is usually negative, as this is usually a person who causes harm.

Aggression can have adaptive benefits or negative effects. Aggressive behaviour is an individual or collective social interaction that is a hostile behaviour with the intention of inflicting damage or harm. ... An example of hostile aggression would be a person who punches someone who insulted him or her.

Aggressive wouldn't be quite the same as assertive. Assertive people respect others when stating their opinions while aggressive people don't.

But there is a difference between being assertive and aggressive. Assertive people state their opinions, while still being respectful of others. Aggressive people attack or ignore others' opinions in favour of their own. Passive people don't state their opinions at all.

Assertive definition:

having or showing a confident and forceful personality

This is showing you're confident in a respectful way.

While aggressive means expressing it in a violent way:

having or showing a confident and forceful personality

  • Your distinction between aggressive and assertive makes sense to me. 'Jim is aggressive' is negative, while 'Jim is assertive' would be positive. I think it is usually negative or has negative connotations. However, I think its usage and context also determine whether it's positive or negative. Bouncing off above comments I think 'Jim is an awesome footballer, he's very aggressive' or 'he plays the game very aggressively'. Or "Jim, you need to be more aggressive out on the field" In these scenarios aggression and aggressive behaviour or tendencies would be positive no?
    – Arthur
    Jan 21, 2019 at 22:33

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