Tag Archives: books

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.

Recommended Reading

Outliers. The Story Of Success. The Amazon.com Bestseller ReviewIn the Middle Ages, little more than nothing depended on a commoner. If you were born a peasant, then you would do hard work from dusk till dawn, everyday, no dayoffs, all you life, simultaneously paying tribute to the feudal lord. Read more…



The most useful book I’ve read in two years. Despite being first published 40 years ago, the book covers timeless problems which are true to every generation. So the advice and tips it provides are still actual today.

Instead of avoiding social conflicts it helps you to resolve them in your interest.

In this blog post I described a short example how I managed to get my money back, using methods described in this book (Broken Record and Fogging).

Outliers. The Story Of Success. The Amazon.com Bestseller Review

In the Middle Ages, little more than nothing depended on a commoner. Mostly his fate was predetermined by the family he was born in: his/her parents’ social status, their professions, and their means. After the birth, a young resident of the feudal state could hardly affect his/her future.

If you were born a peasant, then you would do hard work from dusk till dawn, everyday, no dayoffs, all you life, simultaneously paying tribute to the feudal lord. Then you die. Born into the family of a blacksmith, it is unlikely you will be making living with something other than blacksmithing. Lucky to be born in the family of a prosperous merchant? You have a good start-up capital for your business, besides your father’s experience and business connections are at your service. Well, and if you are lucky bastard born in the family close to the King, or perhaps in his very home: in this case you have almost infinite opportunities, by the standards of that time. Perhaps, except marrying a commoner.

Both the State and the Church did they best to propagate and preach that lifestyle. Of course, it was extremely beneficial for them to maintain this way of society organization as long as possible. It provided them the assurance that their top place in the hierarchy will be encroached by very little amount of people, if any. Ambitions, I’m not sure if this word existed at those times? Even if it was, it was only 1% of the population who knew it: those who were particularly close to the court.

To prevent the head of a swineherd having, even for an instant, the idea to climb the social ladder a little bit, was the highest priority. He had to be sure that being born a swineherd of his master’s pigs, he will die as a swineherd of his master’s pigs.

Things have changed today. Propaganda machine has adopted very different methods and techniques. Now, with the birth, each and everyone is told that s/he can be anyone s/he wishes. You just need to put enough effort into doing something you chose, and what you dream about will come real.

This approach, like any other, has its advantages and drawbacks. On the one hand, a citizen becomes more self-conscious, he begins moving toward his goal, achieves success, and the state (the country he lives in) achieves success as well, by enriching financially (with taxes, for example) or getting cultural advantage over other nations, etc. (If citizen’s purpose is coherent with the objectives of the state).

Undoubtedly, this sweet talk about equality and endless possibilities also serve a purpose beneficial for the people, with power in their hands. Because now the responsibility is shifted to the individual person. If a person failed in his/her attempt to achieve success, all the guilt is laid upon his/her shoulders, and the state and its social institutes are not to blame.

When you try to object, the whole society gangs up on you. It begins to repeat the stereotype. Nobody is going to feel sorry for that person, because everything that happened to that individual is his/her fault completely. The person is labeled “a loser”. And it’s done. Next, please!

The most surprising and regrettable is that the person meekly accepts it. He is sure that he screwed up. Especially it’s true for the Western civilizations, where individualism has reached incredible heights. As a result, we have a person with a low self-esteem, unconsciously reproaching him/herself for all the ills, afraid to stand up again and straighten his/her shoulders.

To be fair, in many cases, much of the guilt really lies upon the person’s shoulders. But is it fair to say that s/he’s 100% guilty? Do we actually have full control over our fate, destiny, life, as we are told?

However the book “Outliers. The story of success” is not about guilt. It approaches the problem of human responsibility for his own destiny and success from a different angle.

The book takes the life stories of well-known personalities, companies and even nations that are considered, by popular opinion, extraordinary successful and brilliant. Then the author tries as much as possible not to miss a single detail in these stories, paying attention to every factor that somehow affected their way of life.

In the end, it turns out that to reach success, along with persistence and dedication, it is also as important (if not more important) to live or be born in the right place (city/country) at the right time (age).

In this book, successful businessmen come across as people who had a little more luck at some point in their lives. Large companies, the unshakable giants, make terrible mistakes with disastrous consequences, but notice their shortcomings and overcome them in time. Lawyers born with unprofitable for their profession nationality, with the passage of time and due to the revision of views on the settled things by society, become directors of multinational companies. Whole nations are successful in certain areas of knowledge, thanks to the historically formed geographical position of the countries they inhabit for centuries.

The author, without belittling the huge merit of successful people and their personal qualities, nevertheless draws attention to a variety of external factors which influenced their success such as good fortune that accompanied them. Such things are rarely discussed as a rule. Not because it’s classified information, but because the people themselves, who are striving for the same professional and business heights, do not want to know. How come? We live in an extremely chaotic world. It is impossible to ensure that doing the same thing which some famous successful person was doing will bring you the same result. It is exactly because of all sorts of unpredictable events that are described in this book. Such unpredictability puts pressure on human, forcing him to see only what he wants to see and hear only what he wants to hear.

Also, this book examines the phenomenon of gifted children who have not reached much in their lives, despite their initial intellectual advantage in comparison with the rest of the population of the globe… and the criterion “good enough” which allows many “average” people to achieve such recognition as the Nobel Prize.

This book won’t help you improve your social skills. However, it will let you take a look at successful people in a more mundane, down-to-earth way, and shake off the excess burden of responsibility imposed by modern society from your shoulders.

In other words, I enjoyed the reading. 🙂

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Summary of the Key Ideas in One Hour or Less

If you buy this book or any other item at Amazon.com following the link I provided above, I will get about 4% from the purchase. The price for you will be the same as if you’d visit Amazon.com directly. However, it’s a good chance for you to join our Give & Share Experiment and make a difference in your life! 🙂

Also you may be interested in reading another book by Malcolm Gladwell. I haven’t read it myself yet, but it looks like a good one too.