“Don’t be a doormat, Megan.”
Dang. She got my attention with that one. I was on the phone with my mom talking about a roommate issue. It was just a small thing, not a big deal, I said. But the truth was I needed to at least speak to my roommate about it. I was making excuses and we all know those don’t work on moms.
I can be passive at times. If something rubs me the wrong way, I often brush it off, thinking that letting it go is the noble move. I don’t like to stir up trouble. I prefer to keep the peace, man. But I’ve realized that “keeping the peace” can occasionally mean sacrificing my piece of mind. And that’s no good.
(Bear with me for a second)
You know how in the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, Goldi’s porridge was at first too hot, then too cold and finally just right?
Well there’s a similar pattern when it comes to confrontation. There are the hotheads who take an aggressive approach to issues and get a little too riled up. There are the passive folks, who are a bit too chill when conflict arises. And then there are the kings of the perfect porridge; the people who have mastered the happy medium.
It’s called being assertive, and it’s important.
Why assertive you ask? It shows that people can’t walk all over you, but also that you know how to address issues respectfully. Being passive might be peaceful, but it’s not productive. Being aggressive might be convenient, but it’s not constructive. Assertive is a different ballgame. It’s how a lady handles her issues.
If someone says or does something that you find insulting, you are 100% allowed to be assertive. Standing up for yourself is a form of self-respect. It’s speaking up when you get that feeling in your gut that tells you something is off. It’s saying, hey, I don’t like the way that makes me feel and I don’t deserve it. Or hey, she’s my friend so please don’t say negative things about her. It’s a firm statement in response to a backhanded compliment. However, it can be difficult to find the middle ground between being overly confrontational and letting too much slide.
So, how do you master the art of in-between? Well, let me tell ya.
Don’t let yourself confuse being nice with being passive. There will be times when people don’t treat you with the respect you deserve. There will be awkward situations and instances when you have to break the silence. Whether it’s something as small as a friend ruining a borrowed shirt without telling you, or a coworker who speaks to you in a condescending tone, you are allowed to say something. In fact, you should, and that does not make you mean.
What you say is just as important as the way you say it. Words are always more powerful when spoken calmly. Think about it. When someone raises his or her voice at you, it only raises your blood pressure. It’s much easier to hear someone out when they speak calmly and deliberately because it shows that that person has thought through what she’s saying. It’s the difference between the mute button and surround sound. Think Morgan Freeman not Tracy Morgan.
It’s all about the vibes with this one. Maybe you don’t want to say anything, but you’re a little salty about a situation. So you turn on “the vibes” and make people uncomfortable without actually being outright mean. Or you make snippy comments that teeter on the border of fightin’ words without quite crossing it. Being up front will save you a lot of uncomfortable tension. Otherwise your relationships could end up like a Britney Spears song; toxic and reminiscent of middle school.
Choose Your Battles
I have a few friends that seem to be irritated by a different person/event/Facebook post every time I see them, which makes it hard for me to take their issues seriously. On the other hand, one of my friends rarely complains, so when she tells me something is bothering her, I know that means it’s really bothering her. Real talk: everyone has the capacity to be annoying from time to time. But not everything warrants a fight. Being assertive doesn’t mean pointing out every single thing that grinds your gears. I mean, if your barista is a little snippy, you probably don’t need to sit her down and let her know how she just made you feel. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. If you confront people all the time, you diminish your power. You’ve got to know which issues are worth addressing and which ones are small potatoes. That way, when you do speak up, people will listen.
Look for Patterns
Is it a predictable set of people who are making you feel like you have to defend yourself? Because that’s a red flag, girl. Even your closest friends will step on your toes from time to time. But there is a huge difference between feeling compelled to speak up once in a while and having to stand your ground on the reg. Distance yourself from the negative Nancies. You don’t need disrespect to become a theme in your life.
Confrontation is a balancing act, but keeping these tips in mind can help you navigate confrontation like a lady. Make assertive your new go-to and you’re golden, Goldi.