Sometimes when we are having a difficult conversation we revert to a style or persona that we often use in “fight or flight” mode. We all have heard that fight or flight is a response to a perceived or real threat. So when you feel that urge to go into fight/flight be aware of which persona you tend to go into. This persona is NOT the real you. It is merely the style you believe will keep you the most emotionally safe in that moment. Below is the 3 different persona that we can choose. Notice which one best reflects your response in difficult conversations.
The Passive Persona
Passive behaviour involves backing down, feeling unworthy, letting people walk all over me.
It looks like I’m being agreeable but I’m not really respected by others when I just give in all the time. I’m passive because I’m scared I won’t be liked if I’m seen as disagreeable.
I would never be firm or consistent or speak about my feelings if it meant it might upset another person. I don’t really like confrontation so why would I bring that upon myself? I’d rather be a “peacemaker” than a “troublemaker”.
I could never be assertive because that would mean I’d have to muster up all the emotional bravery that I gave away years ago.
I don’t mind if I’m not equal to others. It’s too scary to be equal and involves too much hard work, emotionally. I’d rather just stay quiet and take what’s handed out to me.
The Aggressive Persona
Aggressive relating involves saying what I want in a threatening manner. I usually feel out of control so I make sure people are going to listen to what I need. But I rarely share my feelings. I am firm all the time because you never know when someone might try and stab you in the back.
I’m defensive and never modify my ideas or position because I know I’m right. Even if it may help the relationship, too bad! I never speak about my feelings. I only react out of my feelings.
Damn right I’m persistent, because I value the issue at hand more than the relationship. Besides, the relationship has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
There is always a winner and a loser in life, respect has nothing to do with it. Compromises are ok if they suit me and my ideas.
My aggressive body language is closed and stiff. I look hard, scary or threatening and I always make direct eye contact to make sure that my hearer is intimidated. I will listen only once the other person agrees with me.
The goal of aggressiveness is to compete and win, but I don’t really care about the way I express myself of the impact on my relationship with the other person. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant to the issue at hand.
Aggressiveness seeks power over and is not concerned with equal relationships.
The Assertive Persona
Assertiveness involves saying what I want and how I feel in a calm, clear, honest way. It means staying in control of myself, keeping focused and knowing what it is I want and need to express.
It means being firm but also flexible in choosing to modify my ideas or position if that helps the relationship.
It means speaking about my feelings and not just reacting from my feelings.
It often involves persistence and consistency in my approach to others, being honest and valuing the relationship more than the issue at hand.
Seeing both sides of a situation is involved in order to be respectful and searching for a compromise where its appropriate.
My assertive body language is open and relaxed with intentional direct eye contact that is neither threatening nor intimidating.
I realise listening is vital to enable the other to feel comfortable saying what they need to say.
The goal of assertiveness is not to win or compete, but to be proud of the say I express myself honestly, clearly, without aggression or passivity and with an openness to the other’s opinions.
Assertiveness seeks equal relationships with others. Affirming others and apologising when wrong.
You will notice that the assertive persona will probably get you the best results. If you saw yourself in one of the other styles, remember awareness is the beginning of change. Now all you have to do is practice the 3 Steps to Assertiveness as above and notice the change begin to take place in your life.