It has been almost two years since I first told you about the assertive communication formula. I sincerely believe that it is an incredibly powerful tool, but I haven’t used it as much in the last two years as I could have. Even though I could see so many great benefits (see original post linked above), it still seemed like it was really just the nicest, most empathetic and self reflective way to tell someone what they did wrong in regards to interacting with you and how you hope they will treat you in the future (not that there’s anything wrong with telling people how you would like to be treated, but that’s not the point of this post).
I thought both people in the interaction needed to understand the formula and its intended outcome for the person at whom the assertive communication was directed not to get her/his feelings hurt. Additionally, while “letting go of the outcome” is one of the most important aspects of the formula, I still had a tendency towards hoping they would adjust their behavior once they realized how it affected me and I still hoped to influence/control their feelings about me (by addressing the issue so diplomatically and not alienating them).
It was clear to me that the formula was valuable in gaining self awareness and connecting with my feelings, but it wasn’t until I came to some new awareness through Brené Brown’s work that I really understood how/when/why to use it.
Brené Brown’s is a “shame researcher” who teaches about shame, vulnerability, authenticity, connection and more. She has lots of Ted Talks and books that are totally worth your time, if you are not already familiar with her work. The following quotes of hers really sum up the point I want to make on the assertiveness formula pretty well:
Shame is universal. We all know that feeling: I’m not enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection? – Brené Brown
If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. – Brené Brown
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. – Brené Brown
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. – Brené Brown
Most people believe vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves: are we willing to show up and be seen? – Brené Brown
Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. – Brené Brown
What I learned from these lessons is that assertiveness is a loving communication. When feelings come up in response to an interaction I had with another person, it is an opportunity for me to share something about my self. To connect with them more deeply. To be vulnerable. And known. And seen.
I was not seen or known as a child, but instead of realizing that my parents weren’t able to see/know me for their own reasons, toddler logic told me that it was because my true self was not worthy of being known and seen. So I hid my true self where it couldn’t be reached and created a girl who was visible and worthy of being seen… well… I tried to be worthy, anyway.
But it’s time to find that hidden girl and share her with the world. I might not always like the outcome of being real. Sometimes my story will not be met with empathy and understanding. Sometimes assertiveness will not deepen my connection. But at least I can be proud that I was brave enough to own my story and vulnerable enough to share it, that I was not ashamed to be seen. I will know that I am exploring the darkness to find my light. I will know that I am showing up for myself, my true self. I will know that I am running TOWARDS love and belonging and joy instead of away from it and I can finally take comfort in the knowledge that I am allowing myself to just BE the person I was born to be. Perfectly imperfect.