People can be placed into three categories; Assertive, Passive or Aggressive. With each trait, there’s pros and cons, but to be assertive is the ideal.
Passivity If you’re anything like me, you’ll be known as selfless, or a people pleaser. Someone who tends to bottle up what they want to say or do, in order to follow the flow of others around you. You’ll want to take the blame for everything that goes wrong in order to avoid confrontation and arguments. The idea of speaking out about what you want is merely an idea; and never actually put into action.
In all honesty, a passive life becomes an easy one. With no fighting and disputes, things are plain sailing. But that doesn’t mean it’s a happy life; the lack of control you’ve never wanted slowly means that when you feel strongly about things, your natural reaction is to give in, often your voice isn’t heard in crowds when suggesting alternative ideas and solutions to problems.
Whilst trying to keep the peace, you allow yourself to be manipulated and tend to bottle things up.
From personal experience, bottling everything up is severely destructive. You may think that you’ve won by creating no war between partners, friends or family, but by not being true to yourself, and expressing how you feel, relationships can be damaged, you’ll receive less respect and ultimately damage your self-esteem to a point where it’s even harder to push yourself out of the passivity trait. Suddenly a simple conversation that could’ve been had at the time, is an internal battle with yourself.
Aggressive Let’s face it, aggressive people are dicks. They’re just the worst. An aggressive person is someone entirely the opposite to a passive. A person may think that only their needs matter in any situation and have a much more ‘take take take’ approach to life.
You’ll notice that they’ll talk over people – because obviously, their ideas are so much better – and only really look out for themselves.
Similarly to the passive person, relationships are damaged. Aggression often leads to shouting, violence, bullying and a breakdown in support systems. And unlike passivity, you’ll be damaging other people’s self-esteem.
Weirdly, if someone is passive for so long, bottling up emotions and opinions, it’s not uncommon that we will turn into an aggressive individual; finally taking things for our own, getting what we want, feeling rage towards those who have made us feel so little for so long. But yet again, sooner or later, we are the ones that lose out.
Which is why, we need to work on finding the balance between passivity and aggression: Problems aren’t solved by only thinking about others or yourself, we have to learn to compromise, speak freely and express ourselves.
Being assertive to me, sounds a lot more forceful than it is. Telling someone straight out what you want and not backing down seems like a terrifying process to start getting involved in. Even the idea makes me coil back into a ball like a hedgehog in times of danger.
And that’s the problem; I am passive. I am passive to a destructive point. So much so that my self-esteem is practically non-existent. Simply the idea of being assertive makes me feel quiet and introverted and scared. I suppose with speaking your opinions, you’re opening yourself up for ridicule, arguments and awkwardness.
But the strategies from CBT all combine; you do not use one without the other.
So, despite being terrified of being assertive, we can trace back to ‘What If’. What if people like my ideas? What if we find a compromise? What if nobody fights?
In order to live our lives to the best of our ability – to keep our minds happy and healthy – we need to recognise that our needs matter as much as everyone else’s. Working with others to achieve compromises that allow all parties to get what they want is easy – as long as everyone is willing to talk and listen.
It’s about being open minded, but also being prepared and knowing what you want; making sure things are fair for everyone and that you stand up for what you believe in.
And whilst the idea may be scary, and may cause arguing to start with, ultimately being assertive enhances the relationships we create in the world, and can build our confidence and self-esteem.
So, how can we be assertive?
– Be clear and direct. ‘I would like you to give me a refund.’
–Describe to people how they make you feel. By doing this, we allow others to see our point of view, and they may be able to see clearer how their actions effect others.
‘When you raise your voice it makes me scared, I would like you to speak softly’
–Stick to your guns! We’re not always going to agree with everyone. That’s what makes us unique and great and different. But always stick to your guns. Find the balance between giving up, and aggressively taking what you want. A technique I’ve been told is the ‘broken record technique‘ which might sound a little crappy, but by taking a situation in our stride, understanding what is going on, and still sticking with our wants and needs, the solution is found easily.
‘I would like a refund… yes, but I would still like a refund… I’ve heard what you have said but I still want a refund.’
Personally, I’d give up. And play the passive aggressive card that I like to rename ‘sass’. But that’s not the point; we are all people and our needs and wants are equal. We’re entitled to opinions and they’re allowed to be different. So express yourself and stand up as your own person.