In the dependent phase of life, most interactions of a child are carried out by parents or guardians. Also, children are likely to speak on their instincts, which can be blunt sometimes. But as time flows, interactions, planned or unplanned, without the intervention of adults become inevitable. The person's perception of the public and society is also rectified. Consequently, different communication personalities are developed that evolve during collective interactions, namely, Submissive, Passive, Assertive, Aggressive and Oppressive. An individual may choose any life-patterns for living. It's not altogether correct to assign a single absolute personality to a particular person, since the individual can reflect one of the profiles in one situation while another profile or personality in the other. Hence, these traits or life-patterns are not absolute, but relative, however, it is the overall character-trait of an individual that predicts his/her prospective possibilities.
Let's begin with the two major extremes; submissiveness and oppressiveness. A person inclined or ready to submit or yield to the authority of another, unresistingly and meekly, is submissive. A submissive behavior will correspond to others' wills and projections. Without the expression of any thought of contradiction or unwillingness, the submissive person will simply comply. Such an individual doesn't normally listen to reason, he or she either forgets about intellect or chooses to disregard it. It's similar to wearing a leash around one's neck and granting the leash's other end to anyone who grabs it. The major emotional traits of such people are fear, anxiety and self-doubt.
A person who is exploitative and despotic during varied life interactions is oppressive. A dictator or pseudo leader normally adopts oppressiveness. Figuratively, an oppressive behavior likes to demand everybody in sight to fall on their knees and submit. Without listening to any word of opposition, the oppressive person wants others to accept his or her methodologies, wrong they may be. Examples of oppressive personalities can also be found at smaller level. Your arrogant boss can be oppressive from time to time, for instance. The major traits of such people are pride, hate and excessive self-importance.
Imagine for a moment that you are asked to do something which you don't want to, or don't have the time or ability to. The ambiance of that moment is also critical and you have to make a decision at once. Considering coaxing from the other end and your own incompetence to refuse, you accept the invitation against your better judgement. Classifying such reticence as submissiveness might seem slightly misleading. This is where we introduce passiveness - a kissing cousin of submissiveness, yet less extreme. Passive behavior is the diffidence or inability to express true opinions. This implies when one doesn't abandon intellect but the individual's actions conflict with his or her thoughts and desires. Submissiveness is when one is completely overwhelmed by the discussion due to its delectation/authoritativeness and decides to give in. Passiveness is naïve or idle behavior, while submissiveness is weak or vulnerable behavior.
Where flinching in expressing oneself can seem unwise, chewing out the bidders out of ire isn't much recommended either. Apropos of the above example, it makes perfect sense if you decline the request, but the manner in which you do so counts. A person who meddles his/her ego in various life-events and manifests an aggressive or violent reaction where not necessary is aggressive. An aggressive approach can be regarded as a mild version of oppressive approach. Such behavior is often prone to attracting stress in personal life and radiating a scandalous personality impression. In one of his wisdom-filled words, Rumi states: "Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder." The prominent emotional characteristics of aggressive personalities are egoism, anger and cynicism.
In life, a middle way behavior is required to counter various unwanted state of affairs. A behavior that guides the person to listen to reason and conscience, stand against even the slightest whims of subjugation, express and convince true opinions, and radiate a reputable impression. The key to this moderate approach is, as you guessed, assertiveness. A person who is bold in devising plans in timely manner and whose decisions, rather than being led by others, are conscious and reason-based is assertive. Normally, an assertive behavior succeeds in achieving aimed goals without affronting or belittling anyone. Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, avers: "the only healthy communication style is assertive communication."
In a nutshell, a submissive behavior is generally desire-driven or frailty-driven, passive behavior is leisure-driven or diffidence-driven, aggressive behavior is ego-driven, oppressive behavior is vanity-driven, and lastly, assertive behavior is intellect-driven.