• Ellen Dodd

A Challenge for the Repented

Forgive me Father, for I have been a bit of a w***ker



Let’s face it, at some point in our lives, we have all been w*****’s. Either being disagreeable to the point of argument, or standing down and allowing someone to walk all over us – we have all felt regret for the ways we have acted at some point. That regret could have been married with embarrassment, bubbling resentment, or true sorrow at our past behaviours: but ultimately it’s something we can all identify with. It is easy to allow our unconscious selves to drive us, and take on the roles of people pleaser or dominator, leading to us regretting our actions. In the age of self-improvement, maybe it’s time to let go of our needs to please and control and try replacing them with a need to respect ourselves and others.

With this in mind, how can we go about making sure our interactions with others are as harmonious as can be, even when confrontation arises? Can we ever make up for our pasts? Is it possible to change? In short, yes! We can all decide to be a more respectful individual tomorrow, no matter who we were yesterday. By using an assertive mode of communication, we can effectively express our needs, and also respect others. Right now, most of us have no idea which style of communication we use in which situations (we all use all of them at different times in our lives) so how are we supposed to evolve? Let’s go through a rundown of the different kinds of communication styles and what they mean, try and identify your main mode of communication and how it impacts your relationships:

Passive

Passive communication consists of allowing others to make decisions for us by acting indifferently or submissively. Failing to express our feeling and needs in this way can cause confusing feelings of resentment toward ourselves and others, for allowing their needs to be met above our own. We have all gone along with something we don’t want to do before! Overtime consistently being passive can lead to feeling misunderstood, and reduce our ability to make decisions. A passive communicator often displays a lack of eye contact, poor posture, and an inability to say “no”. Patterns built up through continuous passivity in our lives can chip away at our self-esteem. On the positive side, however, if you generally use passive communication you are easy to get along with due to going with the flow! A useful list of traits are:

• Not expressing feelings or needs; ignoring your own personal rights and allowing others to do so.

• Deferring to others for decision making in order to avoid tension or conflict.

• Often leads to misunderstanding, built-up anger, or resentment.

• Can be a safer communication option when a conflict may escalate to violence.

Aggressive

An aggressive communicator can be easy to spot, usually dominating situations and putting others down. We have all been aggressive at points before, by allowing our feelings of anger to drive us perhaps without considering the other party. The style can be recognised by speaking loudly and maintaining eye contact. Mainly aggressive communicators also tend to control others, through blaming, intimidating, criticising, threatening and even attacking them. This could come from low self-esteem like a more passive mode, just expressed by blaming others instead of oneself as means of defence. Overtime using this style of communication consistently, can lead to unhappy relationships and others avoiding us because of this, so ultimately isolation. On the positive side, often an aggressive communicator can be considered a leader by commanding respect from those around them. A useful list of traits includes:

•Expressing feelings, needs, and ideas at the expense of others; ignoring others’ rights in order to support your own

•Defensive or hostile when confronted by others

•Often alienates and hurts others

•Can help meet your needs quickly

Passive-Aggressive

A passive-aggressive communicator can appear passive on the outside, but subtly or indirectly act out due to built-up resentment. They often avoid confrontation, and actually have difficulty acknowledging their own feelings of anger. Whilst avoiding feelings of anger can make us feel as if we are keeping the peace, secretly “getting even” with others is detrimental to ourselves and them, and facing issues is more effective. We have all been passive aggressive before, by agreeing to something we don’t want to do then perhaps doing a bad job, or deliberately being late when we weren’t happy with an agreed time to meet up. Over time, this can build up an image of us being undependable, and lead to feelings of anxiety for being caught out. Other characteristics include giving the silent treatment, sabotaging others, or spreading rumours. On the positive side, often people are passive to keep the peace and avoid confrontation, although the effects of acting out our anger indirectly is unfair when the other party assumes all is okay, the intention of being pleasant was there during the initial interaction. A list of traits include:

•Appearing passive on the surface, but subtly acting out anger

•Exerting control over others by using sarcasm and indirect communication, or avoiding the conversation

•Limited consideration for the rights, needs, or feelings of others

Assertive

Assertive communication is usually seen as the most effect mode. This is achieved by being aware of and expressing your own needs, desires, and feelings, but also considering those around you. Assertive communicators strive for win-win situations, by balancing their own rights with others. It is easy to see this is an optimum style of communication – in personal and business situations. As this method is usually effective, a negative could be that in dangerous situations, it is sometimes better to comply with an attacker (passively) than standing up for your own rights, in order to defuse the situation. However in everyday life, striving towards being more assertive and less passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive, will improve the quality of your exchanges. Through respect for yourself and others, confidence can be achieved! A useful list of traits are:

• Direct, honest communication of thoughts and feelings

Respecting the feelings, ideas, and needs of others while also asserting your own

• May not be effective when interacting with individuals that threaten your personal safety

All of us have used different styles of communication at different times, and all of us have the power within us to choose to act differently in situations moving forward. Do we need to contemplate our own liberties, and set boundaries with those who disrespect us? Or do we need to be critical of ourselves and the way we treat other people, and give them more understanding and respect? We could all probably benefit from doing both. Although difficult, becoming more assertive in our relationships will not only increase our self-esteem and levels of happiness, but perhaps that of those around us too. So as a challenge for those of us who, in a revelation of consciousness, have a newfound urge to be better people: the following list of rights we are all entitled to and responsibilities we have in our interactions can be followed. Challenging our own behaviour is sometimes hard, but working towards following these rights and responsibilities, we can all contribute in our own way to the world being a better and more harmonious place.

Rights • I have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. • I have the right to say “no” without guilt • I have the right to change my mind • I have the right to express all of my feelings and opinions. • I have the right to determine my own priorities, and what is best for me • I have the right to be listened to and taken seriously. • I have the right to make mistakes. • I have the right to change and grow. • I have the right to ask for what I want and need • I have the right to be my unique and authentic self. • I have the right to all of my human weaknesses and limitations without guilt or shame.

Responsibilities

• I have the responsibility to treat others with the same respect I expect. • I have the responsibility to allow others to say “no”. • I have the responsibility to allow others to change their minds. • I have the responsibility to express those feelings without insulting or putting others down. • I have the responsibility to allow others to decide what is best for them.

• I have the responsibility to listen to others and take them seriously. • I have the responsibility to accept the consequences of my mistakes. • I have the responsibility to allow others space change and grow. • I have the responsibility to allow others the right to refuse my request even though I might not like being refused. • I have the responsibility to allow others to freely be their unique, authentic selves without judgment. • I have the responsibility to allow others their weaknesses without ridiculing or resenting them.

There we are, a set of assertiveness personal rights and responsibilities to follow, a challenge for the repented. It’s easy to skim over these and dismiss them, but really reflect on if you are standing up for your own rights, and stepping up to your own responsibilities. They are not gospel, but something to consider and derive our own truths and optimum communication style from. Own yourself! And be mindful of letting others own themselves too, without judgement, cause hey – we’re all awesome in our own ways! So if you, like me, squirm at the thought of your past self’s behaviour: then take the challenge to follow these rights and responsibilities, and make a commitment to yourself to become more assertive and mindful in your interactions. With less time being spent fretting over our relationships, we have all the more time to focus on and achieve our goals. Level up yourself! Become the self-assured, fair, and respectful person you can be. It isn’t easy, but with practice, it’s achievable and reaps the reward of confidence in life. Good luck!

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A great online resource for becoming more assertive, to use along with your newfound rights, responsibilities, and knowledge of yourself, is:

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/Assertiveness.htm.

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