Men know what gender roles are, even if they grow up never hearing that particular term. They exist in society, and even while some of them are not as rigid as they once were, others appear sometimes in popular culture, whether we’d like them to or not.

In many societies, traditionally, men are the protectors and the hunter-gatherers, while the women take care of the household and raise the children. Luckily, most people no longer subscribe to such specific roles, and they try to teach their children they can be anything they want to be.

Still, many role models attempt to teach male children that when they grow to manhood, they should go after what they want aggressively. They should assert themselves to try and carve out their place in the world.

There is a subtle difference between aggression and assertiveness. For men to be successful in their lives, it’s vital that they know the difference. Let’s look at some different areas where assertiveness allows men to thrive, while aggression can cause problems for them.

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While Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association states that aggressive driving-fueled fatal car crashes increased from 80 in 2006 up to 467 recently. That’s close to a 500% increase.

Men should pay attention to that statistic. You have probably heard at some point that you should drive defensively. That means you should follow all traffic laws. You should not speed, tailgate, or make any unsafe turns.

You can be an assertive driver while not being an aggressive one. It means that if you get to a four-way stop before another driver does, you can hit the gas without hesitation. In fact, if you have the right of way in any traffic situation, you can go. Being predictable and deliberate in your driving will make it easier for the less confident drivers around you.

In Relationships

Being assertive in a relationship can be helpful as well. For instance, if you like someone, and you feel sure that they reciprocate that feeling, you can ask them out. They will probably appreciate that boldness and confidence.

On the other hand, if you misread the signs and they say they’re not interested, you should have the good grace and respect for them to back off. If they say no, that’s not a time to be aggressive.

It’s the same when you live with someone. If they’re doing something that’s bothering you, you don’t need to make passive-aggressive statements about it, nor do you need to raise your voice or resort to physical violence.

You can assert yourself by vocalizing the issue you’re having with them. You can tell them why what they’re doing bothers you, and you can ask them to modify the behavior. If they don’t respond respectfully and reasonably, then you can extricate yourself from the situation.

At Work

You can engage in some of these same behaviors at work as well. You can often advance in your profession if you go into situations expecting your coworkers to take what you have to say seriously. If you find that they’re not doing so, then you’ll probably quickly realize you’re not in the best environment for your talents. You’ll know that you’ll need to find a new job sooner rather than later.

In job interviews, you can explain your qualifications and be vocal about why you feel that you’re the best candidate. You can show assertiveness without being overbearing.

With Your Parenting

You can also be friends with your children and demonstrate that you love them, but at the same time, you have to realize that as their father, you need to be a disciplinarian occasionally.

If your kids are doing something that you’ve told them not to do, you need to come up with a punishment for them and enforce it. You can do so without yelling at them, though, or spanking them. Many studies show that violence perpetuates itself, and corporal punishment is not the answer for misbehavior.

The difference between aggressive and assertive behavior should become evident the longer you live and the more life experience you obtain. If you find that you cross the line sometimes, or you come dangerously close to doing so, then you may need to seek therapy or come up with better coping techniques.

Overt aggression rarely helps modern men. You need to learn how to temper those feelings and redirect them if you hope to succeed in many different ventures and situations.