Stop complaining...part IV

Paul Dulski
20/10/20 20:00:27

...Be assertive

I am sure you remember Mike. During one of our meetings I talked with him about beating the routine. However, Mike has some other problems that he must face in his daily life.
“I know you told me that I should do something for myself, but I just can’t. That’s impossible,” Mike said with bitterness.
I hear this a million times: “My life is different; I just can’t; that’s impossible.” Everyone wants to be different or special. Sadly, this case isn’t something special — it becomes more common day by day.
“Why is that impossible in your case? Why is it others can do it, but you can’t?” I asked Mike.
“I… uh, you don’t understand. I have many responsibilities, and people, my friends, they’re always asking me for favors.”
“And you always have to agree to help them?”
“Of course, I must help them. They are my friends; they count on me. What if I needed their help, who’d help me?”
Well, there’s the stream of wrong thoughts. Not the wrong thoughts I mean, but wrongly understood. Life often shows that the people who “really” needed our help, in fact took advantage of us, and when we need their help, they have no qualms to say: “No”.
Let’s start again: “I MUST help them.”
“Why MUST you help them?” I asked.
“They’re my good friends. If they’re in need, I feel obligated. If I don’t help them, they won’t help me either,” Mike tried to explain.
“You said, that if you won’t help them, they won’t help you either,” I caught his thought.
“Are they your real friends then? Shouldn’t a real friend be selfless? Think, what are the grounds of your friendships?”
“Do you mean that I shouldn’t help my friends?” he asked upset.
“No, I don’t mean it at all. We talk about your assumptions which you found in your head and about your motives.”
“Is it wrong that I help?” Mike was a bit disgusted.
“No, but ask yourself why do you help them? Do you really want to help, or do you just hope that you’ll need their help in the future? A friendship is something deep. It’s not a result of calculation. In a real friendship you don’t worry about saying no, because your friend should understand that you had a serious reason to deny. Friendship allows for the word: ‘No’.”
“What if they get offended?” Mike inquired.
“Then think if you really want such a friendship. Isn’t it just a one-way friendship, a result of one’s benefit. People can be terrible. They can cling as a leech to your skin. They can suck out all the good that you have inside, leaving you with bitterness and disappointment. You must learn to defend yourself.”
“But how?”
“You need to be assertive. For some it comes easily, but the majority have to practice. The assertive one knows how to say no.”
“But when I refuse to help, I’m filled with remorse.”
“Yes, because you’re not assertive. The assertive one knows how to say no without remorse.”
“That means he’s selfish.”
“No, you can’t confuse an assertive person with a selfish one. Assertiveness is a value. It doesn’t come from reluctance to help, egotism, or laziness. It comes from a right way of judging the situation, and from knowing one’s own limitations — that is modesty. The truth is that when someone asks you for a favor, and you agree without a thought, then you are doing somebody’s dirty work. You’re not the last person in the world. Most likely, if you won’t, then someone else would help. Furthermore, many matters are not as urgent as people describe them. In fact, by saying no, you can help your friend become more creative. Secondly, an assertive person refuses to help, having a real reason, and thirdly, he wants to help as much as the situation allows him.”
“So what should I do?”
“You can apply a certain pattern for that situation. First you have to think: ‘Can I really help? If not, why?’ What are some good reasons? Spending time with your family is one. Having enough rest is also important. Think about someone who can help instead of you, or how to solve the situation otherwise. This is how you show that you really care, but you can’t help personally in this situation. And what’s more important, don’t beat about the bush. It’s easier to tell the truth briefly and directly. After some time ask the person how did he cope with his situation. It will show him that you really wanted to help, but you just couldn’t. Let’s suppose that a friend asked you favor to help him move to another house, but you can’t. You’d like to, but you have other urgent plans. You may say:
“‘Henry, I’d love to help you, but I can’t this Saturday. I have planned an important appointment, and I just can’t put it off. But you can call Philip, he has some days off and may be able to help you. I will check on some people too, and see if they can help. I’ll call you back and report what we’ve got.’
“You see, simple and direct message. Your listener heard the worst part and knows what to expect. On the other hand, you don’t leave him alone, you still try to help him. That’s how you avoid remorse.”
“OK, I understand it a bit better now. It always make me think about egotism, but now you showed me the difference. It doesn’t mean to be clever or cunning, but to be honest.”
“Yes, exactly!”

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