In the previous newsletter I promised my subscribers to share details of a social conflict I got involved in recently.
It’s a regular type of conflict you may easily encounter in your everyday life: requesting a commercial structure to make a refund.
While this type of social conflict is quite common in our world, few people bother asking for a repayment if they are not satisfied with goods or services they bought.
However, asking for a refund is a “golden”, easy-accessible opportunity to improve your social skills many of us miss out.
From my point of view, my character is too soft. I often give up on getting what I want if perspective of a social conflict arises.
I lived this way for many years. I guess I developed this approach to social clashes quite early, when I was 5-7 years old. Fleeing was my ultimate way to cope with social conflicts.
It worked fine. I masterly managed to avoid many social conflicts at school, and later at university and job. However, every time I avoided a conflict I felt some subtle dissatisfaction inside. Nevertheless, I managed to come up with some excuses, that made me feel better and suppressed my dissatisfaction with myself. Little I knew then that that was a direct road to low self-esteem and overall frustration with my social life.
When I Say ‘No’ I Feel Guilty
Yesterday I finished reading a book called “When I Say ‘No’ I Feel Guilty”. It’s central message: be straightforward and assertive about what you want.
Many books of this kind are not bad: they make you feel inspired and ambitious. However too often they are too vague. You may completely agree with what is written in them, but you get confused how to apply it in practice.
This book is different. It’s written by a professional psychologist / psychotherapist. What is more important it provides a set of concrete methods, and a bunch of examples (in the form of dialogs), in which those methods are applied to different life situations (for example, when your friend asks you to lend him your car, and you do not want to do it).
How to Be More Assertive Example
So, recently I was seeking for psychotherapeutic help to resolve the shortcoming of my character, described above. I wanted to find behavioral ways to deal with it so that I become more assertive and I do not reproach myself for being too soft if I fail.
It’s really hard (if not impossible at all) to find a professional psychotherapist in my city. However, one of commercial centers claimed that now they have a psychotherapist.
In fact, the psychotherapist appeared not to be a psychotherapist at all, but a psychiatrist who just changed the label on his door. His service’s cost was, I think, the most expensive one in the clinic, but it was of no help to me.
When I left the clinic my first thought was: “Well, that was not what I was looking for. Okay…”
However, a couple of days later I got quite irritated with my soft, non-assertive character again, and that’s when I decided to make a step forward, and get my money back for unsatisfactory psychotherapeutic service in the way the book taught.
I called the clinic and politely asked for a refund. A girl at reception was polite as well: she gave me the number of the clinic’s manager and asked me to call next day morning, as at the moment when I was talking to her the manager had already left.
Here comes the most interesting part: I started feeling guilty, insecure and too demanding. Like I was a bad person who was trying to deprive honest doctors of their deserved money! (Exactly as described in the book.) All the evening I was coming up with reasons why I should not call the manager in the morning. I found a lot of reasons why she did a decent job actually (not great, a little bit dissatisfying maybe, but who am I to evaluate it?!), and why I have no right to ask for a refund.
So, in the morning I woke up with a firm decision NOT to call! Still I felt very nervous for two hours, the left part of my chest started aching (that’s a common manifestation of nervousness, which can be (and usually is) misinterpreted by patients as some heart disease). Finally, I shared my doubts with my girlfriend. From the first phrase she managed to invoke all my dissatisfaction with the provided service back again. I dialed the clinic: the manager was absent, but the person I was talking to said she would return and call me back. After two hours she didn’t, so I called again. That person said that I should not worry, she would call me shortly after.
In a couple of minutes my phone rang – that was the manager. She tried to convince me with logical reasoning that I was not right (the author describes this situation as well) but I continued using methods from the book in a calm and polite manner (though all my inner organs were trembling and I was sweating like hell!). So after a 3-4 arguments she gave up and agreed to make a refund.
So it appeared to be quite easy, much easier than many other situations described in the book.
I made refunds before, like when I was returning a pair of terribly manufactured Adidas shoes. Or my laptop which was restarting in a loop. But those times I used my legal, juristic rights to make a refund. However, this is the first time when I didn’t use any legal mechanisms but just my assertiveness.
Have I received my money back and improved my financial situation back again? Yes. Have I improved my social confidence? Hell yeah!
After that talk my hands were trembling, my heart was jumping inside of my chest, I was all sweaty so I had to take a shower. But the psychological relief I felt… – that was awesome, guys!
That all was actually not about money, but about overcoming yourself (and of course, so I could have a personal example to share with you! 😉 )
It’s funny: I paid the psychotherapist to improve my social interaction skill, but in the end it turned out that getting my money back was that actually improved my social skills. Perhaps, that was the doctor’s way of therapy?! :-0 Of course, I don’t think so. But that was an opportunity provided by the universe for sure.
Getting involved in such harmless for your physical health and financial well-being conflicts is essential part of your interpersonal skills training. They are here to help you grow and develop your social confidence.
There are conflicts where you may do what you are asked for, because it, in the first place, is in your best interest. Those are situations when your opponent has a physical or legal control over you.
It’s not wise to argue with someone who has a gun against you. Or to prove assertively your innocence to a police officer at the moment when you are being arrested. (Set it aside until you’re in court!)
However, most of everyday social conflicts are just harmless. They are no more than a game. The winner is the most assertive one, and the loser is that one who has less no’s in his bag.
Avoiding social conflicts the universe so generously delivers to you means missing opportunities to raise your self-esteem.
The nice advantage of assertively demanding your wants and needs is that your self-respect increases even if you do not get what you want in the end.
Social interactions are not all about pleasing someone. In fact, satisfying someone all the time makes that person feel control over you, you give him strings to manipulate you in his/her own interests, so as a result it only harms the interaction).
Many times social interaction is about conflicting (and resolving the conflict, i.e. finding a workable compromise).
Playing safe and not getting involved in any social conflicts may look like a “right, smart” way to move along the life course. However, you may notice that a regular week of a successful person is full of social conflicts.
Living life of success is not evading every possible problem, it’s resolving them in your interest.
Next time you face a social conflict, embrace the opportunities it gives you. You may start with small, but you have to start.