Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If they jumped off a bridge...

From the book, Too Nice for Your Own Good:
"As nice people we have failed to distinguish between being aggressive and being assertive. Seeing the difference between them can free us to tell others what we want. Look at how these two forms of expression differ:

To be aggressive is to dominate people and take away their rightful power.
To be assertive is to express your wants and leave their power intact.

To be aggressive is to affirm only your own wants and worth.
To be assertive is to affirm the worth of both others and yourself.

To be aggressive is selfish.
To be assertive expresses a healthy self-love.

We assert ourselves when we respectfully ask something of others that’s appropriate. Rather than aggressively imposing our needs on them and turning them off, our assertiveness makes them feel needed and they find satisfaction in responding.

The freedom to express your desires to others will come only with your decision to live by them. Are you willing to love yourself? Be fully present to those you care about? Assert yourself in a respectful way?

In asserting yourself, whether you want people to stop or start doing something, you need to be positive, specific and direct, rather than negative, indirect, manipulative or moralistic.

Such compelling assertions, because they are clear, honest, and respectful, tend to make others want to give you what you want, desire and deserve. On the other hand, if you’re negative, you create negative responses; if you’re indirect, you burden others with explaining themselves; if you’re manipulative, you make them resentful and resistant; if you’re moralistic, you force them to act out of guilt. Here are examples of healthy assertiveness followed by examples of how unhealthy communications sound:

I’d like you to pick up your toys.

Don’t leave your toys lying around. (Negative)
Why don’t you pick up your toys? (Negative and indirect)
You shouldn’t leave your toys lying around. (Negative and moralistic)
Nice kids don’t leave their toys lying around. (Negative, indirect and manipulative)

I’d like you to bring me flowers.

Don’t forget to bring me flowers. (Negative)
Why don’t you bring me flowers anymore? (Negative, indirect)
You ought to bring me flowers now and then. (Moralistic)
Nice spouses don’t forget to bring their wife flowers. (Negative, indirect, manipulative)"

After reading this a few weeks ago, I have paid a lot of attention to the way people talk to each other. Especially my family... Almost everything they say to each other is aggressive according to this book's definition.

I have felt frustrated with them for ages... but I couldn't tell you why.
I have felt angry at the way Dann talks to me, but I thought I was just being crazy.

It turns out all of us have learned to communicate in some really ucky ways. At CFC the first time, I learned how to be assertive, but... even then... I didn't want to make people feel the way I felt... And I really didn't know what I was doing. So, I pulled back.

I'm done pulling back to make others happy.
I want to be assertive. I want to take care of me. I don't want to hurt others with aggressive communication. How do I even begin?? If EVERYONE does it, how do I be different? How do I tell people its not okay to talk to me that way?


  1. If you ever have a problem with something I say, you're welcome to tell me I'm being too aggressive.

    I actually think it would be interesting to have a family discussion about our communication. We could definitely all learn from it.

  2. Not everyone does it. Just the people you're used to being around.

    I'm glad that I'm leaving my own tormentors behind soon.

  3. Feathertail - Its been interesting, as I've learned what is aggressive communication, I've been able to see it more, and thus deal with it better. I've changed, so it doesn't matter as much what other people do. (Of course, part of my change is that I tell people that I don't like the way they are talking to me.)

    I don't know who your tormentors are, and I wish you peace!