Recently I’ve read some stories of well-meaning artists and authors who have in a struggle to show courage and approach editors and art directors with confidence, miss the mark and be completely frightening. My intention is to give a lighter explanation between aggressive and assertive and pointing out the two most common mistakes people make for that first impression.
Don’t mistake aggressive for assertive. You may find yourself thinking “I’m really coming across as a confident go-getter!” when the person on the other end is wondering if they need to file a report for threats and stalking. Here are two examples of assertive vs. aggressive approaches.
Writing that first query/submission/introduction:
Assertive is “I’ve been researching your earlier published works, and I think I would offer something new and fresh that would complement what your brand stands for.”
Aggressive is “Not hiring me would be the worst mistake you ever made.”
The first statement shows confidence in your work and also indicates that you’ve done your homework in looking into the company you wish to hire you. The second statement is threatening, and will probably be filed in a separate document called “Stalker Correspondence”*
The second example:
At a Conference:
The assertive person walks up to an Art Director or Editor during a social moment and introduces herself. “I know you don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to meet you in person and say how much I’ve enjoyed your tweets on (insert subject). I’d love you to have my business/postcard for your consideration, and chat again when you have some time. Thank you!”
The aggressive person follows the Art Director or Editor into the bathroom and throws a copy of their portfolio/manuscript over the stall and shouts “While you’re sitting, look at my work and give me your thoughts. I’ll guard the door so no one bothers us.”
The first shows a consideration for the person’s time and is a quick, professional interaction during a proper moment. The second is holding a person hostage in the toilet.
I hope these two examples illustrate the difference between aggressive and assertive approaches. Acting Assertive is showing confidence and using consideration to have a genuine interaction with someone. The Aggressive approach is acting arrogant and using intimidation to get attention. If you’re not sure if your introduction to someone sounds aggressive, just put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine a stranger saying it to you in a menacing tone. Did you just scare yourself? You may need to revise your query/submissions/introductions.
Best of luck!
*Not that I know that’s a thing, but it’s what I would do.