Fast track to giving away your power
Assertiveness and the self respect you have to cultivate to exercise it has been a common conversation topic with friends and family. Not being afraid to ask, not being afraid to speak up and most importantly not fearing a negative reaction to your self respecting boundary setting.
I learned an important lesson about how giving into anger, even if it is just in thought, can override any ability to express appropriate assertiveness or self respect. A few hours before my daughter had to catch a plane home, I went to the local bakery to get some scones for a farewell afternoon tea. Approaching the bakery, I could hear a child screaming. As I got closer, I could see a mother (who was virtually blocking the bakery entrance) attempting to placate her screaming toddler with indulgent bribes. The more bribery she offered, the louder the screams. It was clear who ruled this relationship and it wasn’t the adult. When I got inside, I had to speak above the screaming going on outside to order my scones.
As the girl behind the counter placed my third and final scone in the bag, the mother and son walked into the shop. The mother interrupted the girl who was about to tell me how much I owed, with ‘Can I please be served now, I have a very sick boy here?’. The young girl went right to the woman, leaving me to wait to finish the transaction. I stood there part in shock and part trying to decide how to respond. As the anger welled up inside me, I considered uncharacteristically lashing out with ‘Well, if he’s so sick, why do you have him here in public, spreading germs to us all?’ or just the ‘I can’t believe how rude you are’. I didn’t say anything, but stood there fuming with many retorts running through my mind as the mother droned on and on with queries about the bread, allergies, even throwing in her aversion to plastic bags. Her continued apology to the girl behind the counter, without as much as a glance to me further fueled my anger at the consequences to me of this woman’s ‘I’m the only one in the world’ apparent approach to life. Note to self: big clue why child’s reflex response to ‘not now’ is a tantrum.
I finally finished my transaction. Driving home, I thought about the recent conversations about the importance of assertiveness that demonstrates self respect. Where had I gone wrong? Then it hit me! My anger is what let me down. If I had not wasted energy being angry at the woman, I could have assertively, but politely said in response to her ‘Wait on me now’ demand, ‘She’s almost finished with me and I have to get my daugther to the airport’. I bet the outcome would have been very different.
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