Assertiveness: The Antidote to Passivity and Aggression
Assertiveness is by far, the most effective, yet the most misunderstood style of communication. Most conjure up the notion of being pushy, in your face and overly intrusive. This notion is more like the definition of aggression. Quite the contrary, my definition of assertiveness is direct and respectful communication of your thoughts and feelings. Knowing how to do this is something that usually only comes with either sales training or counseling (or maybe you were fortunate enough to have parents who did it this way). Thankfully for you, regardless of your background, you can now get the benefit of knowing how using assertive skills can benefit you in the dating realm.
Let’s start with the definition of the polarities. Aggressive people communicate through pushing their thoughts and feelings onto others through violating others’ rights. They see things in a black and white way and when others don’t agree with their stance, they quickly become agitated and irritable. This can come in the form of reactive, edgy responses; loud voice tone or volume; verbal threats or assaults; offensive or taunting language; physical threats; posturing or assaults. People who communicate in this way (more typically men than women) are usually unable to sustain relationships, as their tempers and unstable display of emotions make them a threatening character that most want to avoid. They are short-fused, edgy people who make others feel unsafe and anxious in their presence. Ironically, this tendency is seen in those who have had a history of feeling insecure and unsafe themselves. Bullying is a way to compensate for a time when they felt small, unheard or mistreated. It essentially functions as protective armor to ensure that they aren’t hurt again, but in doing so, they not only keep all the bad, but all the good out too. There are times that showing aggression may be appropriate. When someone you care about is getting hurt, doing your best to protect them and fend others off is situationally appropriate. However, if aggression becomes your default mode each time one of your opinions is challenged, you’re going to have a whole different set of difficulties to deal with.
How This Shows Up In the Dating World:
- Jockeying for women’s attention in competitive situations
- Extreme anger when she doesn’t give you sex
- Agitation when your date doesn’t behave the way you want her to
Now onto passivity. Synonymous with meek, meager and weak, this communication style forgoes the expression of thoughts and feelings for fear of how others may react and the consequences it may bring. They clam up and keep their opinions inside, which safeguard them from judgment and criticism. However, it also keeps them from truly allowing themselves to openly declare their true needs and desires. If this continues for long, many will eventually explode and then demonstrate extreme aggression. Passives typically learned somewhere long ago that it wasn’t safe to openly express themselves. Perhaps they would be punished for speaking their opinions or they were overshadowed and forgotten during their early years. Forgoing sincere thoughts and feelings can also lead to a sense of feeling identity-less and unable to site what you truly think or believe in. Many become followers in a group, hoping for acceptance and belonging, only to find out that they have distanced themselves from their own opinions and beliefs. There are times that being passive may actually be the best protocol. Listening, not taking any action for the moment and withholding your nasty comments may be in order in a given situation. I’m talking about passivity as an overall dominant style of communication and how this can be a less than effective method of expression.
How This Shows Up In the Dating World:
- Talking yourself out of approaching a woman for fear of rejection
- Not taking the reins and providing leadership when out on a date
- Going along with her desire to continue to date you, even though you don’t see it going anywhere; you are nervous about how to end it
- Nice-guy-itis or those who wind up in The Friend Zone
Then there’s passive-aggression; the backdoor, indirect method of communication that leaves everyone all backwards. This often comes in the form of vengeful, spiteful ways that create misguided perceptions and incorrect assertions. Similar to passives, passive-aggressive people learned that it wasn’t safe to openly express and they found some creative ways to communicate their frustration and angst. From rolling the eyes or keying a car, this style of communicator thinks that he is giving a loud and clear message about what he’s upset about. The unlucky recipient (if she even knows who did the damage) is left attempting to decode what the behavior is all about and is oftentimes wrong. Unlike aggression and passivity, there is no appropriate time to be passive-aggressive. People who communicate in this way are often seen as shiesty and shifty, as you never know what they’re really thinking or feeling.
How This Shows Up In the Dating World:
- Claiming you lost your phone, it broke or any other lame excuse for not calling her back when you really don’t want to talk to her
- Claiming you’re busy when you’re not just because you don’t know how to directly tell her you don’t want to see her
- Dating or sleeping with multiple women and lying about it
- Seeking vengeance to get back at an ex instead of dealing directly with your hurt or pain
Assertiveness is the open way to directly and respectfully let your thoughts and feelings be known. It means taking responsibility for yourself and your behavior, free of blame (aggression) or shame (passive). The goal of assertiveness is not to control, change or manipulate the other person’s behavior. It is a style that gives others the chance to know how you’re truly thinking or feeling, which can lead to some real solutions and real conversation about what’s really going on. It may not lead the other person to acquiescing to your opinion or changing their stance. However, it gives you both the chance to be real and perhaps agree to disagree…either way, you know you’ve been honest and this is liberating. This style of communication is full of integrity and class; you’re letting your inner experience be outwardly expressed.
Now, let me translate how to use this in your dating experiences.
- Make “I” statements about your experience. This allows you to make an honest statement about your experience without name calling, blaming or judging.
I feel _______(insert a single feeling word- sad, mad, happy, glad…) when you ________(insert factual statement)
Example: I feel smothered when you call me several times in a day.
NOT: I feel like you’re stalking me when you blow up my phone all day long.
In the first example, you’re talking about yourself and make a factual, evidence based statement about her behavior. In the second, you’re not actually owning anything, you’re simply putting a value judgment on your interpretation of her behavior. She’ll get defensive and you won’t get anywhere. Your feelings are your own and are neither right nor wrong. Though she may not see it this way, you’re taking responsibility for your real experience of her.
- Be Honest There are many so-called dating gurus who will dissuade you from being forthcoming all to manipulate a woman into bed. This deceitful way of operating may get you what you want in the short term, but a time of reckoning will reveal your inner nature and you need to be able to live with that. What you don’t know is that lying is not necessary to get what you want. Being honest about your intentions or dating other women will earn you character points in the end. The woman you’re getting involved with may or may not want the same thing, but by giving her the truth from the beginning, you’re allowing her to opt for what’s best for her. When she makes this choice out of your honesty, she will feel safe. When she feels safe, everything gets better…your companionship, the sex, the laughs. If she doesn’t want the same thing, this frees you up to search for others who are in alignment with your desires. And believe me, there are women out there with every desire and kink imaginable.
- Be Willing To Walk Away It is important that women understand your worth and value and that you’re willing to continue your search to find the most compatible match. A partial match is just that…partial. Most become complacent and are willing to settle for part of what they want because it’s better than nothing. Using this adage as a philosophy for dating means that you’re constantly compromising what you really want out of fear, desperation and loneliness (none of these things are the least bit sexy by the way). If you sense that the woman you’re dating is not the best fit for you, being forthcoming about this gives her the opportunity to meet someone who appreciates what she has to offer and frees you up to do the same. Hanging onto a partial connection because you don’t have someone else lined up means that this woman is taking up valuable real estate that could be filled by another, more compatible match. This also decreases your “property value” because it’s sending the message that you don’t find yourself worthy enough to hold out for the best match. I’m not saying that having a casual companion is a bad thing; quite the contrary, having a friend with benefits can actually stave off loneliness and skin hunger. However, the same credo of honesty still applies here.
Follow these guidelines to assert yourself and you’ll find that you will get more of what you want with integrity, class and dignity. Now onto Putting It Into Practice…