Passive: We notice an event or relationship that bothers us or feels disappointing, but we choose not to speak up. We are valuing the rights of others over our own. That works in certain situations, yet it can become a pattern or a way of responding that is not helpful to us.
Assertive: We choose to engage in a conversation and explain our perspective. We think about the rights of others and about our rights. This is a mindful, balanced approach that can become a strong civility practice.
Aggressive: We speak up in a way that values our rights above others.
When thinking about assertiveness, it is helpful to remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Like Goldilocks in the story, being assertive is a matter of finding the happy medium between two extremes. In this case, assertiveness lies somewhere between being passive and being aggressive.
One way to consider your own approach for dealing with disappointment is to think about the last time you experienced poor customer service. Which of the three situations is most like your experience?
- I got frustrated and ended up telling others but didn’t say anything to the business or the people who could actually meet my needs.
- I asked for a supervisor to explain what happened and my preferred resolution.
- I got upset and started speaking to the customer service person and blaming them.
If your most recent experience was the first or the third response, take time to reflect. Is this your normal pattern?
When we build the skill of assertiveness over a more passive or aggressive approach at work we start to build a culture of mindfulness and civility.
Dr. Ettensohn writes:
Learning to be assertive can be difficult, especially if you’ve fallen into the habit of engaging in cycles of passivity and aggression. Often, people attempting to make changes in their behavior will encounter feelings of discomfort when they try new things. They may also notice that others resist their attempts to change established relationship dynamics. This is perfectly normal and is usually a sign of growth.
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