What would happen if we were assertive? How would our interpersonal relationships be like? In order to answer these questions, we need to define what it means and not to be assertive...
An aggressive person will believe that his rights are over those of others, while a passive person will believe that their rights are below that of others. That is to say, for the aggressive, what he wants, what he thinks, what he demands is more important; while a passive person almost always puts himself in second place, prioritizing the needs and rights of others. And of course, in order to have a passive person, there must be an aggressive one; and this applies to all types of interpersonal relationships. So where does assertiveness come in?
Well, it would be the balance between these two communication styles. Being assertive implies recognizing that just as I have likes, dislikes, rights, strengths, and weaknesses, the other also does.
Now what happens in our interpersonal relationships? Many times we fall into a passive or aggressive role. Let's take some time to reflect on what our trend is. We will discover that perhaps one is more dominant in our communication style. For example, why is it so hard for us to say no? Or vice versa, why is it difficult for us to accept no for an answer? In relationships it can be clearly seen how when there is a problem, it is rarely talked about... we tend to let it slide, as if by doing so the problem will magically disappear. Also, we want the other to guess our desires or preferences... this can be clearly seen in a couple, where "hints" are thrown for the other to understand. As if others can read our minds. It's so hard to ask questions and to express how we really feel and when we do it's perceived as very strong or rude, since we're not used to it. Let's just imagine if someone tells us, I'm upset for these reasons ... it would surely take us by surprise, right? We are so used to saying and hearing "I'm fine."
Personally, when I have felt uncomfortable in some type of relationship, I like to talk about it and this is not always taken in a positive way. I have been branded as dramatic, exaggerated, direct, and I don't know what else… all for seeking to have an honest talk about a problem. Yes, I agree that it's not the easiest way, but it's the healthiest. It's so important that we are constantly evaluating our relationships and talking about it. Communication is key to identify areas for improvement. Gerard Egan proposes a fundamental skill: proximity.
Proximity implies discussing the interpersonal relationship in the present moment. We can practice using this guide (applies to all interpersonal relationships):
How are we? (Self disclosures of the feelings we have regarding the relationship)
What has happened? (Our perception of the relationship, it's important to be specific in our observations)
Do we want to improve? If the answer is yes, what can we do about it? (Actions focused on the relationship growing, if that is what we want. It's good to be aware that not all the people who enter our life are here to stay)
So what if we were more assertive? Well, I think we would be healthier, lighter, and more empathetic, understanding that if I have rights, the other also does and no one is above or below anyone, but at the same level...
I close with this thought of Fritz Perls whichI love.
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.
-Fritz Perls, 1969
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