Peaceful Assertiveness

Assertiveness is defined as is “the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive” by Wikipedia. Some people seem to be naturally assertive; others require more effort to find their assertive behavior. Where do you fit on this spectrum? When dealing with financial matters, assertiveness is sometimes necessary to make things right.

Whether dealing with a merchant or a boss, sometimes we need to assert our right to be adequately treated. The key is to be assertive while keeping calm and focused. Losing your cool and letting anger dictate your words and actions is a sure way to sabotage a potential solution. Following are some ideas on how to be more effectively assertive:

Treat the person in front of you with the ultimate respect. Respect them even if they seem to be unreasonable or unresponsive. You don’t know the whole situation. You may not see the pressure they are under or the constraints they have. Never berate or minimize them. They will help you as much as they are able.

Realistically evaluate whether the person you are dealing with has the ability and authority to solve the problem. If they do have the ability to help, continue to work with them. Otherwise, gently but firmly escalate the issue to management. You must be patient in this process. Sometimes escalation through multiple levels of management is necessary to solve a particularly tricky problem. When you talk with people, ask and write down their names. Take notes on the discussions; they could be helpful later. Be open to alternative solutions that present themselves.

Start your discussion from a peaceful place. When you think about an upcoming talk or confrontation, and it makes you uneasy, you need to take steps to bring peace into your experience. Meditation or deep-breathing exercises can be helpful. Actively imagine your discussion going well. Expect a positive outcome.

Dealing with large organizations and government bureaucracies can be especially trying. You may get shuffled from one department to another. Sometimes phone calls are dropped. Patience and persistence are required. I remember, when I was much younger, I made a call to the local cable company. The representative insisted that I had unreturned equipment. Until I paid for the devices or returned them, I could not get internet service. I futilely argued that I did not have any devices in my possession. I spoke to a manager, who did not help at all. I was angrier than I could remember ever being. My spouse then called the cable company and got someone else who solved the problem immediately. Sometimes resolution comes in unexpected ways once you are open to alternate solutions.

It is important to our self respect that we do not allow ourselves to be mistreated. Assertive behavior is part of our personal skills tool-kit that we must use from time to time.

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