It’s interesting to note that whilst personal relationships should be the ideal place to communicate freely, it is in these relationships that you are likely to experience the most fear in doing so. It is the fear of rejection (on any level) that leads to anxiety over displeasing others – and… This fear of rejection usually can be traced back to your relationship within your family.
The way in which you communicate and the level to which you feel free to speak up within your family has a direct impact on how you communicate within your friendships and within your intimate relationships. When you personally experience difficulties in relationships and thus feel anxious about the consequences of speaking up, you are likely to have a deep understanding of the NEED to be assertive. On a conscious level you are likely to be a great advice giver (detailing the ways your friends should be assertive in their own relationships) because you can see objectively the result of poor communication within relationships, however, taking your own advice and acting upon it – are very different matters.
Imagine that you enter into an exciting new relationship. At the start of the relationship you are so focused on pleasing the other person that you allow many indiscretions to slide and avoid speaking up, for fear that you may be rejected or criticized. You compromise on things you would never suggest your friends compromise on and you allow things to be said that would normally upset you.
For a few months you keep up the act, but soon your self respect kicks in and you can no longer hold your tongue. Subsequently, at (most likely) inappropriate times, you explode and end up having a huge argument with your partner. Your partner then responds in a nasty manner because he/she is not used to this behavior. Your outburst is significantly different to the passive and supportive role you have been playing up to that point.
After the outburst you apologize profusely for your behavior and as a result avoid the conversation underlying the outburst. You revert back to passive behavior and, as expected, in time another outburst occurs. Eventually as a result of not having sufficient grounding in the relationship, your partner is confused and disheartened by your change in behavior.
Whilst in the example above, the partner would appear to have poor empathy, it is logical to expect anyone entering a new relationship to have low tolerance for change in one’s personality. For a partner to enter the relationship as a positive and relaxed personality and then to turn into a negative person with a temper would cause many people to wonder where their partner had disappeared to. However, this shock in one’s behaviour tends to occur as a result of feeling afraid to speak up and discuss personal issues of concern in a relationship.
Often, people find themselves in over-dominant past relationships which result in a partner being aggressive every time they speak up. Unfortunately, the baggage of this past relationship can carry over into new relationships with the expectation that all partners will result in the same manner. However, HEALTHY relationships need HEALTHY and open discussions to work.
In order to be assertive, you have to feel confident that your point of view has value and is justified. Then you also need to be mindful, but not too concerned about the possible outcome of addressing your concerns. If raising your concerns leads to an argument, it is likely to be unpleasant, but with calm and rational discorse, these types of discussions can in fact enhance the closeness of your relationships.
Assertiveness takes time and practice, but it’s vital to success in every relationship (personal and professional) in your life. The key assertive behaviour is believing that a small bit of discomfort is much more tolerable than losing yourself and not being true to yourself – simply to keep the peace.