Tag Archives: assertiveness

Think For Yourself

To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

Earlier this year I turned 30 and this post pretty much sums up my life experience for the last decade.

I procrastinated on writing my thoughts down regarding this event for half a year. Mostly due to the high stress to make it perfect I had put on my shoulders. Such dates happen just once, so it felt like I had to hone every detail of this post to perfection.

Every thought must be thought through and shine brighter than the sun,” – I thought. The old good perfectionism, bottom line.

Eventually, I figured out that if I do not wake up early next morning and start writing right off the bat, it will be delayed till 40 year old anniversary and so on. But there’s still a hope even in this case: probably someone would be kind enough and sum up my life experience for me in the form of an epitaph?.. Haha, just a pinch of black humor.

But let’s get back on track.

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We are culturally conditioned to consider round anniversaries as some milestone in our life. On such dates we tend to judge our previous life, make existential conclusions, regret the mistakes and missed opportunities. We may get nostalgic about some delightful moments we experienced in the passed years and get sad knowing those years will never come back.

So, although technically, it was just another year of my life came to an end, whether I wanted it or not, I started asking myself questions, uncomfortable and disturbing ones including.

Have I created something meaningful in the last decade? Have I developed any skills? Was I enjoying my life at all during those years?

What mistakes have I made along the way? Which of them I would keep for the purpose of growth experience, which ones would I try to avoid completely if I started over?

What lessons did I learn? And how would I like to spend my 30s and the rest of my life in the light of those lessons?

Some questions were easy to answer, others I would like to be never asked. For a number of them I still can’t figure out the final responses.

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However, there’s a thesis I’d like my 30+, 40+ and so on year old me to follow. Here it is: think for yourself. Continue reading Think For Yourself

Why It Is Important To Stop Pleasing Each and Everyone Around You

The idea of pleasing everyone around you may look quite appealing. Here’s the logic: the more people you please, the more they like you, the more secure you feel yourself in the end.

People’s loyalty serves you as a safety net in the human society. If you experience a setback in your life one day, you may count on some help from those, whose demands you satisfied back in a day.

Let’s use the business analogy: the more customers’ demands your company satisfies, the more money it makes, right? Then why it is wrong to try to please each and everyone around you? There’s one thing we forgot to take into consideration. Continue reading Why It Is Important To Stop Pleasing Each and Everyone Around You

Social Conflict: How to Be More Assertive Example – Asking for a Refund

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. Continue reading Social Conflict: How to Be More Assertive Example – Asking for a Refund

Do You Communicate Clearly and Assertively?

Have you ever noticed how open and straightforward confident people are? They rarely resort to any subtle implications when trying to convey their thoughts and viewpoint to other people.

On the other hand, socially reserved person would be beating about the bush, sometimes infinitely, with no result.

There are cases when gentle approach and manipulative speech constructions may be quite useful. But is it really that effective?

Manuel J. Smith, in his book “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty”, insists that the more assertive you are, the easier it becomes for you to resolve social conflicts and attain what you actually desire.

However, this article does not describe any of techniques from that book (I’m only halfway through it, so I’ll review it later – when I’m done reading it. However, even by now it’s a safe bet to say that this book is the most helpful and insightful book I’ve read in the last couple years so far.)

The tips I want to share with you in this article are based on the points I’ve grasped from the book “Outliers” (please, check my book review here).

Mitigated speech

Linguists use a special term to describe such a soft way of communication – “mitigated speech”.

We use mitigated speech when we want to be polite, less assertive, gentle to other people.

For example, when you’re talking to a teacher, you are likely to use mitigated speech in order to be respectful to his/her authority and experience. You don’t say: “I want you to check my homework right now!” It’s impolite, irreverent and even unacceptable for some cultures. Instead, you go with something like: “I’m sorry for disturbing you, but I would like to ask you to check my homework as soon as you have some free time”.

When we want to avoid any sharp edges in a conversation, express our complaisance toward an interlocutor we use mitigated speech to, quoting the book, “downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said”.

Of course, there are situations when the mitigated speech is very effective and even a necessary condition to get what you want, but I think you agree, that socially insecure people use it way too often. In many life situations it is not only of no help, but makes you lose actually.

The linguists Ute Fischer and Judith Orasanu offer at least 6 ways to express your thoughts, using different level of mitigation. In the book I reference to, the following mitigated speech gradation is given in application to the safety of air flights, however, we can make good use of it by applying it to social interactions we are involved in on everyday basis.

So here’s an adapted to some social situation version of the mitigation spectrum.

  1. Command: This level is the most straightforward one. You don’t say, you literally give a command to the other person. No mitigation is involved here. Let’s consider an example. You and your friends are deciding which place to visit this evening. Someone asks: “Where do we go tonight?” You want to go to the X bar. The sentence “We go to the X bar.” – is the most direct way to make your intention clear to your friends yet be assertive.
  2. Obligation Statement: “I think we need to go to the X bar.” The use of “I think” and “we need” makes the whole phrase gentler.
  3. Suggestion: “Let’s go to the X bar.” The use of the pronoun “we” is less explicit here.
  4. Query: “Would you like to go to the X bar?” This sentence is more mitigated as you let your friends decide.
  5. Preference: “I think it would be great to go the X bar.” “Would” makes the phrase sound wishy-washy. Your friends may simply (and rightfully) ignore it, as it doesn’t even state any question.
  6. Hint: “The X bar seems to be a good place to visit.” The most mitigated level of expressing what you want.

Do you communicate clearly and assertively, or are you used to express your thoughts, opinions and desires ambiguously instead? Are you being too humble when it’s not necessary and even harms the conversation? Are you easily manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do?

Try to be more direct and assertive when expressing your ideas and intentions. Assertiveness is not aggression. It’s a powerful way to resolve social conflicts and raise your self-esteem with no fighting.

As with every social skill, adopting those pieces of advice may take some time and practice (and courage), but as a result, it will inevitably improve your social life on a bigger scale.