Analyze yourself to find out if the way you approach conflict keeps you from having healthy relationships. Generally speaking, there are 4 distinct styles that people exhibit when they handle interpersonal conflict:
- Passive — “There is no sense in fighting back”
- People never know what you think (you may think you’re not worth it).
- Passive Aggressive — “I’ll get you when you’re not looking”
- You often gossip about people or commit to something but then don’t do it. It’s hard to say “no.” (You feel worthy to fight back, or say “no”, but believe it’s not worth the trouble).
- Aggressive — “You’re gonna hear what I’ve got to say!”
- You almost never back down and have no problem yelling or putting people in their place. (You feel others will take advantage if you don’t nip it in the bud).
- Assertive — “Here is my thought–you decide what you’re going to do with it.”
- If you have something to say you say it and if you don’t want to say it you keep it to yourself. (You know that other people’s opinions don’t define you).
Becoming assertive is the goal if you want to have healthy relationships and feel like you know who you are. The other 3 styles focus on self preservation–they are fight or flight responses that are by nature, selfish. Assertiveness is neither a fighting position nor an attempt to escape. It requires confidence, peace, and respect for one’s own opinions and the opinions of others. Moreover, it allows others to disagree with and even disrespect your opinion, without lashing out in a retaliatory manner. The tell tale sign that you are assertive is if you are able to say exactly what you are thinking without either shrinking back in fear or feeling compelled to force others to see things your way; you are content knowing and speaking your truth and are not dependent on the reactions of others for affirmation. If you decide not to speak your mind it is because you have concluded that doing so is not in the best interest of the situation or the parties involved–not out of fear or anger.
Everyone has a default conflict style and it is usually not “assertive”. Becoming assertive takes time, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and is very intentional. It is advised to seek support while attempting to grow in this area because it will become confusing and discouraging as failure inevitably is part of the process.