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Old 04-04-2012, 12:42 PM
ban ban is offline
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Question When can you be assertive?

Could someone please explain this psychological conundrum:

I was speaking to a neighbour of mine about the other day about being assertive. The balance between aggressive and being passive.

I don’t know her very well. She seems nice enough. We say hello on the street if we meet which isn’t often and may exchange a few pleasantries.

In our conversation about assertiveness – she told me that she could never tell a waiter or the fast food attendant that her hamburger had the wrong toppings and ask them politely to change it.

But, at the same time when I told her I would not be able to keep attending a course because I needed the time to finish a project so I could earn some money she asked me – Why not? Why can’t you do the project another time?

I ended up having to tell her – I don’t want to change it and reiterate that I told her I needed the money badly.

For me, her pushing at me to change my mind was very assertive if not aggressive. It didn’t respect my situation or feelings. So I don’t understand why she would have difficulty in asking the waiter to change an order. That’s his or her job and there’s no harm or foul if things mess up – it’s not personal – we all miss things or miss hear orders or the kitchen messes up – that happens.

So why is that so hard? For me, pushing at a “friend” or neighbour is incredibly aggressive. I think if you like someone you have to respect their boundaries and their decisions. If I had even dared ask such a question I would have been very apologetic and would have explained that I was emotionally affected by the person’s absence or something.

Is there an ability to push at friends/neighbours but not at people who serve or work for you? I really don’t understand the psychology behind this. If someone is the same as this – ie has no problem pushing at people they know but not at people who work for them or serve them I would greatly appreciate knowing why.

I figure we’re meant to become assertive of our wants and needs so that our spirits can be respected. That for me implies flexibility – not telling people what I want without understanding human nature and fallibility –

I think people don’t deal well with confronting things sometimes when they have to point out mistakes because of some shame attached to making mistakes. Like when you are a kid – some people spilled milk and people freaked out on them. For me, my mom would just clean it up or as I got older, toss me a rag and say nothing – and even later – just clean it up – it’s no big deal.

But being emotionally or personally pushy – that’s something you have to have a relationship for - so anyway, I just don’t get it.

If anyone has any input, I’d appreciate it.


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Old 04-30-2012, 01:45 AM
jmills jmills is offline
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Default Assertive or agressive?

I find that people accept me as "assertive" when I am completely in the moment...just there. I usually come off as "aggressive" when I wait too long to speak up. If I am too caught up in everything, then I can't communicate anything but anger.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:46 PM
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I think that’s very true – I’ve noticed over my lifetime if I held things in I would burst eventually and part of the whole interaction – the aggression came from holding it in – the initial issue, most of the time, was not as great.

I’ve tried to learn to be assertive because of that – respect what I feel in the moment and communicate if I’m not happy. It was a lot less “messy”.

I couldn’t understand my neighbour though and I should probably ask her – because I have found it more difficult to be assertive with people in relationships that are ongoing – eg family or coworkers – as opposed to people who were serving me as a job in a one-off interaction.

I found that really odd – that she was the opposite.

Did you find that you had more trouble speaking up to total strangers or to people you had a relationship with?

Have you had any experience with passive aggression?

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Old 05-12-2012, 11:41 PM
jmills jmills is offline
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Default Assertive or...

I struggle with passive aggressive, because I was raised to be that way. I was raised in a very abusive environment. I wasn't allowed to speak up or I would face extreme punishment. As a result I had to find ways to push back that were indirect. Sarcasm and dark humor are the tools that I use the most. That way I can hint at my disapproval or disagreement and appear to be joking - court jester. I have a colleague that pushes me to change my mindset so that I can be more assertive and get more respect from industry leaders. He is always telling me to just say, "Kiss my #@*." People in my industry have very little respect for kind and generous advisors. I have even been told that I am too thrifty and helpful. As a result of this form of mentoring/conversations I have been able to identify when I am being more assertive and less passive. I get very sad that I cannot communicate my true self to people, because I can't find a balance between assertive and passive. I am glad that you brought this up.
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Old 05-18-2012, 07:17 PM
ban ban is offline
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Hi Jmills,

Your response is really interesting – informative – not sure what the right word is

When I was in school we read a Norwegian play called Hedda Gabler. It was about a Victorian woman in Norway (a contemporary play) and we learned that a lot of Victorian women and also women at other times were passive aggressive because that was the only way they had of exerting any influence/power in their lives.

My grandmother was like that – she wasn’t Victorian but it was her way, more or less.

I never took that on but my sister did. I was more the keep it in side or burst at the seams and get in trouble! Ouch!

There’s a book I’ve been meaning to read written by Tim xxx rep. From Pennsylvania – He was a psychologist before he went into politic – he says that passive aggression is a huge problem in politics as well as everywhere else.

I think the fact you’re trying to work your way through that is really great – I find it hard to say things that I feel or know how to confront things too. Some situations are ok, but then others not – and I don’t work in a corporate setting

I’ve been trying to find that balance too – I think it’s something that depends on our personalities – how it ends up being expressed. For me it’s also been something to realize if I did say something nothing might happen – ie the people might not care or listen – which would hurt..

But I guess if it’s making us more “true to ourselves” as you say – that’s the most important part.

By the way – what you said about industry leaders not appreciating kindness and gentleness – I thought you might be interested in a book I just read called “Quiet” - it’s about introversion as a neglected aspect of ourselves.

I found it really interesting because being assertive is sort of defined in a sort of bold/brash way sometimes (like the way you described – “Kiss my ass” LOL!) But then I find when I get to that point – I’m angry – and then that means I’m not in balance. The book made me realize that my introversion wouldn’t really find that assertive at all – but rather aggressive – which I can “do – but it’s not what I’m looking to develop in terms of balance.

Maybe aside from everything else - you’re temperament is more introverted than corporate culture is used to. This book says that there’s a strength in introversion which is underrated and the author, a negotiator for high powered corporate firms, believes that if people find and develop their introverted sides it can really help them and society. (I think I’m assuming she means society – she does believe it makes a person feel more balanced though ).

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Old 05-31-2012, 07:55 AM
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Vaughn Vaughn is offline
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Default Good Topic

Hey I like this one Fre,

In my work life I've facilitated a lot, run into many heated situations.
When a situation occurs, friend or family or co-worker, try to not make it personal, site some example, metaphor that takes it away from just you and them, thereby not making it as personal.

This approach, let's people have their ego but enables them to step outside, see a different perspective.

I know it's hard to come up with a story, or example to get your point across but even just making one up, you're a good story teller.
It is all easier than you have been told.
Simply change your consciousness

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Old 06-03-2012, 08:12 PM
ban ban is offline
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Hi Vaughn,

When I first read this I thought you were referring to not taking what might be said personally which is good advice.

But then I realized you mean something more – when communicating to not make it personal and use story/metaphor to communicate the ideas – .

I googled “facilitation story” and there’s a whole technique about using stories to communicate with people in difficult situations. Did you follow that sort of thing in your work? Or did you come up with this intuitively? It really makes a lot of sense either way, thank you.

I’ve been wondering about things like this for a while – how to best communicate to people. I read that people learn best when ideas are communicated in stories they can relate to personally. I’d not read anything about this “sparing” the ego but it makes sense and that would definitely help in difficult situations.

I do think it would be a bit of a challenge to figure out how to tell stories or use metaphor – but then most communication is not easy and communicating well takes some effort at least until the process becomes more familiar. I think it’s well worth the effort though and I’m looking forward to learning more about this. I’ll have to share an example with you when I figure it out a bit.

I don’t suppose you have any examples you might remember from your past that you might be able to share? (I feel like I’m trying to cheat here :rolleyes.

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