Over the few months, I have heard a clear call for a new way to date and relate that combines inner strength with ability to create a fulfilling relationship. I've been getting so many emails from men and women asking how they get what they want from their dates: Should I be patient and wait for him to ask me out on a date? Should I wait for her ex to decide whether he wants her back? Should I tell him I love him? Should I tell her she's is hurting my feelings? Etc.
When I ask them why they just don't come right out and ask or say what they really feel, the common responses are "I don't want to cause trouble" or "I don't want to be pushy", or "I don't want to appear to be too demanding" or "It's just a little thing, hardly worth making a big deal over," or, "Maybe if I don't say anything, things will just change on their own" or "I hate being an AH". So they sit there feeling taken advantage of, doubting themselves and their desirability and even damaging their self-esteem.
Like lots of people, they seem confused, especially over the difference between assertive and aggressive.
We use the word "aggressive" to describe a person who is a successful go-getter in business, in sales, in sports and a variety of activities. Spoken this way, the word "aggressive" generally signifies a positive personality trait. However, when it comes to people and relational skills, "aggression" has harmful and self-destructive consequences.
Aggressive people come in two groups - aggressive and the passive-aggressive.
Aggressive people believe the world revolves around them and they make sure others know it. Their first responsibility in any situation is to look out for themselves regardless of the seething resentment they may create. They will not stop at using any means necessary including manipulation, intimidation, sarcasm, using put-downs or any tricks or games to get what they feel is rightfully theirs. The sense of power felt by aggressive people is actually an overwhelming sense of inner powerlessness. They feel that they must over power others so that they may feel empowered. This power is an illusion since it is dependent on destroying the value of others and often leads to loneliness and isolation, the very things they are trying to run away from. When they can't destroy others, aggressive people often destroy themselves.
Passive-aggressive people on the other hand tend to be rightfully angry about something. They suppress this anger by being over compliant. They always seem to try to fit their dates into some ideal in their minds or try too hard to make themselves seem like a perfect match. They fail to voice their needs and their wants and sometimes at the cost of their mental health ("Why didn't I say that?" or "If only I'd done this", or "How could I be such a wimp?" or "Why did I let someone victimize me?"). This can lead to feelings of blame, depression and anxiety. And that makes them even angrier and often times this anger gives and they suddenly go over the bounds into aggressiveness leaving the other person asking "what's up with you?" Their poor human relations skills alienate the very people they are trying to connect with.
Assertive people strike a good balance between a direct and honest expression of their feelings, needs, wants, thoughts, beliefs, or preferences and preserving their own dignity and that of others.
The goal of assertiveness is to communicate clearly with each other, express what you think while at the same time valuing the opinion of others. While aggressiveness is about winning, assertiveness is concerned with being able to walk away feeling that you put across what you wanted to say in a direct, honest and appropriate way. It's not just communication, it is great communication.
Acting in a more assertive manner will actually make you feel good about yourself and leads to increased confidence. Just as important, it will help you get noticed and listened to and start to garner the respect you deserve. It's not something that happens overnight but you can take some small steps in the right direction beginning today.
The focus of Assertive Dating is to balance relationships, not control them; to gain esteem from oneself, not approval from others; to possess "power to," not "power over".
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