Should You Be Assertive or Aggressive? Learn from Our Experts!

HE MAN IN the cubical next to yours sucks his teeth, and this makes you crazy. You consider knocking his block off, a fairly aggressive solution to be sure. Soon you realize the folly of this approach, however, because he will almost certainly regain consciousness and put you right back to square one. Instead you inform him in an assertive voice that, if he does not cease sucking teeth, you will knock them out and string them into a necklace and sell them on E-bay.

Not all solutions are this elegant, naturally, which is why we have consulted our Happy Woman specialists, who have compiled a foolproof guide to the best course of action for those sticky problems Emily Post just can't handle all by her polite little self! Here is just a sampling of their fabulous suggestions.

The Slowpoke Driver

Who among us hasn't landed behind someone who believes the speed limit is the number beyond which lies certain death? Slowpokes, say our experts, are not reasonable people, because they cannot be convinced by ordinary means that driving faster is not only perfectly safe, but proper road etiquette as well.

Therefore the aggressive approach—pushing their car with yours into a busy intersection—will only confirm their misguided theory of car safety. In this example, our experts heartily endorse the assertive approach:

At the next red stoplight, simply saunter up to the driver's window and, if the window is all the way up, tap ever so lightly on it and make that darling universal rolling-down-the-window sign. Or, if you don't know what that means, then the darling universal pushing-the-button-that-lowers-the-automatic-window sign.

Introduce yourself (first name only, gals!) and then politely inform your Slowpoke that posted speed limits are only relics of bygone days when going faster than a horse was ill-advised because the brakes were so unreliable then.

That will usually do the trick, but if not, then your Slowpoke has just been re-diagnosed a Passive-Aggressive Slowpoke. It is now advisable to push their car with yours into a busy intersection.

The Busybody Bus Commuter

Once the Busybody in your bus queue has wrinkled her nose at you, you are done for. You can dye your hair to match hers, compliment her every outfit, and even invite her to your wedding, all to no avail. In the old days these techniques might have appeased the Busybody at least long enough for you to get a new job, but today's model is more like the Alien. All your offerings just make her stronger.

If you try ignoring the Busybody, or make the fatal mistake of wrinkling your nose right back, she will form an angry mob of fellow commuters to lustily beat you to death with clubs. Or worse, send you to the end of the commuter queue.

Now that you understand how fearsome a creature is the deceptively pert little Busybody, our experts say that you may need to pre-emptively form a mob of your own. In light of who we're dealing with here, our experts classify mob-forming as an assertive approach.

Not to worry! Just make required reading our "Happy Woman Guide to Successfully Forming Your Own Angry Mob." And don't forget our indispensable sequel: "The Happy Woman Guide to Successfully Dispersing Your Own Angry Mob." It may help to remember that, wherever an angry mob is formed, clubs spontaneously appear. Sometimes the universe displays its perfect order. Except when fruit flies spontaneously appear.

The Whiny Friend of A Friend

You love her, you hate her. Actually, you don't really love her one little bit. If your mom never let you get away with whining when you were a tike, then you developed the proper aversion to it that all normal adults possess. But your dear friend, let's call her Marianne, doesn't seem to notice when her whiny friend, let's call her Whinyfred, starts in with that voice only a dog who howls along to "Strangers In the Night" could love.

You don't want to antagonize Marianne, but you really can't stand Whinyfred when she starts in. What's a Happy Woman to do?

Our experts recommend a unique approach to this thorniest of issues, starting from the premise of accessing your "inner child."

1. Invite Marianne and Whinyfred to join you for an outdoor picnic on a sunny afternoon, ensuring that the picnic location is situated adjacent to a children's playground.

2. After eating, suggest being children again and playing on the swings. Don't take "no" for an answer, but instead recall the persuasive style of your youth and apply until your companions helplessly relent.

3. Offer to push Whinyfred on her swing. Be gentle. At the first inevitable whine, push harder. When the whining predictably intensifies, remain calm. Push harder.

4. Commence the classic children's taunting song with custom lyrics like, "Whinnie is a whiner!" or "Whinnie's such a baby!" As Whinyfred's goat is gotten, remain centered and cheerful of temperament. Wink encouragingly at Marianne.

5. Pretend not to notice Marianne's inevitable decline in maturity. Simply join hands with her and feel the primal bonding. (If desired, make a mental note to write female adaptation of "Lord of the Rings" when you get home.)

6. Leave Whinyfred on the swing and run together with your bestest friend back to the car.

7. Drive away. Don't look back.

8. Repeat as needed with other whiny friends of friends.