Creating healthy relationships starts with creating a healthy relationship with yourself. Working on yourself includes things we have already talked about, like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercise, but there is so much more. Let’s talk about the difference between being assertive and aggressive, being supportive and being controlling, and being strong and being a pushover.
There has always been a fine line between being assertive and aggressive. Being assertive can help you more closer to your goals, while aggressive can get you fired or and alone. I work with many patients around the difference in these two things, but the fine line can be hard. When we are assertive, we can make our needs and thoughts known without putting people in defense mode. With a calm voice, low volume, and pleasant disposition, we can be firm about requests and needs, and be heard. As I watch the public when I go out, I see people raising their voice, yelling at store clerks, getting in people’s space and struggling with boundaries. Those people are aggressive and less likely to get what they need. They are more likely to get asked to leave and not accomplish what they set out to do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like myself much when I lose control. The idea is to feel good about a situation when you leave it, and get what you need.
When it comes to being supportive, I have to admit that with my kids I can be controlling, not supportive. I know I need to teach them how to manage the world, but sometimes it’s just easier to take over and do things. If I support them, I help them make the decisions and review their options,. It takes time, but they learn more. If I control, I make the decisions, they learn nothing and blame me when things go wrong. I can think of times that they made decisions, that I worried about. Sometimes it went well, and other times, they managed the consequences. That’s learning and that’s important for them, and for me. When it comes to other areas, sometimes it’s hard to delegate responsibility, but it’s important as well. I remember working in groups in school, and having people not get things done which reflected in my grade. It’s hard to rely on others when you don’t trust their work, whether at home or at work. The key to being supportive is to provide specific information about expectations and then room to complete the task.
Everyone wants to be strong and feel that they can handle things. I think people also want to help others, but some people take advantage of that trait. In talking with patients, some have trouble saying no, when it comes to family. I have talked with so many people over the years that are in financial trouble because family members take advantage of them. I think healthy relationships with yourself and others begin with the ability to say no, to yourself (when you are about to buy or eat something you don’t need) or to others (when your kids have trouble standing on their own two feet and keep coming to you for rent, or whatever). I am learning to say no, but it’s hard and I feel guilty at times. Don’t be afraid to say no, and that will help you not be a pushover.
This is a simple discussion, and there is so much more to these concepts, but my hope is it will get you thinking. Do you get aggressive with people and push them away? Are you a pushover and do you have trouble saying no? Do you try to control others, instead of being supportive? Does any of that make you feel better? It doesn’t make me feel better and tends to get in the way of being happy. I tend to push people away and my relationships suffer. Ask the people around you how they feel, and listen carefully to the answer. It can help you in your journey to be happy, and in healthy relationships.