Assertiveness: Confrontation or Candor?

  • Are you someone who doesn’t know how to say ‘no?’
  • Do you feel people take advantage of you?
  • Are you inclined to apologize even when you believe that you didn’t do anything wrong?
  • Do you feel you are “…not confrontational?”
  • Do you sometimes "walk on eggshells" even with a close friend?
  • Do you see yourself as a “go with the flow” kind of person... but sometimes you go with the flow even when you don't want to?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you would likely feel a lot better if you found ways of expressing your feelings, thoughts, wishes, plans, and opinions in your style you meet your needs at the same time taking the other person into account.

Why not say how you feel? Could fears about risking a friendship, alienating a family member, upsetting a partner, or not knowing what to say, be holding you back? Often, bottled-up feelings build up inside, and over time you could feel resentful.  This could lead to outbursts, feeling hurt and emotionally distant, or showing your feelings through body language without you realizing it, amplifying strains in a relationship. 

A good friendship, family, business, or romantic relationship requires that you stand up for yourself while taking the other person into account. 

Let’s look at an early dating situation, for example.  Jamie, a young woman, began receiving texts from someone she met while visiting a friend at school in a nearby city. At first, he texted frequently, and each exchange was spontaneous and light. After about three weeks, his pattern changed. He began to delay his replies. Sometimes it would be hours until he would reply to her text, cutting out in what seemed to her to be mid-conversation. Then, he would text in the next day or two, picking up where they left off or starting a new conversation as if nothing happened.

Naturally, she was affected. He moved to another city after twice canceling the night before his scheduled arrival for a visit. She was greatly disappointed.

What happened? When his texts became less frequent, and then when he took longer to reply, she felt something in the pit of her stomach. She did not ask him about the change in pattern. When she had a conversation with him in her mind, she thought she sounded needy and demanding. She perceived herself as an independent young woman, and as such, didn't want to appear like that.  So, because she could not think of how to speak with him in a way that worked, she didn’t say anything and it would have seemed to him that she accepted his behavior.

Yet, with guidance, in a future dating situation she was able to say,  "John, we've been texting pretty often since we met and I notice that your pattern changed in the last week or so. I'm wondering what's happening and if everything's okay."  John realized that he wasn't clear about the time pressures he was dealing with at work in the last few days. When he did, she understood, and each was able to manage their expectations.  Some feel that because two people do not have a committed relationship, one partner does not have have the right to ask anything of the other partner.  But, sharing an observation is important for a relationship to grow.

She might have gotten important information by bringing it up.  They ensuing discussion may been about their respective preferences, for example, that she prefers phone calls as well as texting and or he likes fact to face on the weekends. He may have gotten defensive, which could have been a red flag. Or, he may admit that his feelings have changed but he didn't know how to tell her.  Generally, we would prefer to know now that has happened rather than later, after delayed texts, cancelled meetings, and so on.

Often, a good friendship, romantic relationship, family drama or work-related difficulty, requires that you address the situation because leaving it unaddressed could be even more emotionally painful or have other undesirable consequences.

I can guide you in developing the skills to learn how to speak up in your style and be effective when addressing difficult issues with others and be true to yourself at the same time.  If you read this and think, “This could be me…” call now, at (212) 920-6019, to set up your first appointment to see how we can best work together.

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