“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped” (Fritz Perls, 1969).
People within our lives are their own beings, and at times their actions may affect us negatively. Unfortunately we cannot control their behaviors; we can however choose how we react to such an event. So when we get into a fight with a close friend, partner, loved one, co-worker etcetera it is often difficult to remember that these people are separate from us. There is nothing we can say or do to change what had just transpired, nor to fully prevent it from happening…So what can we do? What do we do if we feel wronged by another?
Consider the following scenarios/questions and reflect if you would act aggressively, assertively, or passively: Your supervisor throws an assignment on your desk at the close of business on Friday and asks for it to be complete and turned in first thing in the morning the following Monday… Someone cuts you in line at the bank… Your friend owes you a sum of money; do you mention it to him/her? At the family dinner table your sister controls the conversation, and makes remarks about your weight…
Within all of these situations one can be assertive rather than aggressive, or passive in expressing oneself. No one is able to be assertive all the time, but if we are able to effectively express ourselves, this can help to reduce of level of stress and promote more satisfying relationships with others. Think of the times when you are not assertive and used other non-effective means of communicating, even the use of silence. What prevented you from speaking your mind? Were you afraid of the potential consequences, was it due to a lack of skills, (e.g. I did not know how to approach my supervisor), or was it simply not appropriate given the context (i.e. was cut in line by an aggressive stranger in the bank)?
Assertive communication is direct, clear, and at times persistent in order to promote healthy relationships with others that respect both parties’ rights. Being assertive enables you to stand up for yourself, to not act like a doormat, and/or manipulate the situation through the use of aggression. Being assertive is not just the use of one’s words but by communicating the message through one’s behavior as well. It is important to not only speak in a clear and direct manner, but to also maintain good eye contact (this doesn’t mean to stare another down, but convey a comfortable message of sincerity), one’s facial expressions should match one’s emotions, and one’s word choice should reflect the audience. So what happens if you practice assertive communication and the outcome is not in your favor? Think about your typical reaction, to the following scenario: your boss calls you into their office, about missing a deadline, and proceeds to yell at you for not touching base with him/her, even after you noted that the deadline was changed: do you tend to sulk about it, beat yourself up about it, maybe act out, or bottle up your emotions? Sometimes no matter the type of communication you use, some people are not the best listeners. Try not to take it to heart, in others words don’t dwell on the negative event, yeah sure it sucks that your boss wrongly reprimanded you, but that negative encounter does not have to ruin your day. Furthermore, if it happens again there are other appropriate ways to solve your problem, like going to HR and filing a complaint, or touching base with your supervisor via email as soon as something changes. Things do not always go according to plan, but the more often you speak up for yourself, the more likely the outcome will be favorable.
For further reading on this topic: Your Perfect Right by Robert Alberti & Michael Emmons