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In All Cases Be Kind, Unless You Can’t Then Be Assertive

There is a fine line in relationships between being passive, being assertive, and being aggressive. Even in each of these three energies, you can be kind. You can consider the other person and take their feelings into account. You can be passive, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” You can be assertive, “Hey, let’s walk to the pizza place and have a thin crust meat lover pizza.” You can be aggressive, “I want to have pizza tonight. Is that okay with you?” And if you’re agro you might leave out the “Is that okay with you” part.


I have been known to fluctuate between these postures in my relationships I guess the position is really my relationship to me and my approach to the world. This goes for professional relationships as well as personal ones.

When I’m in a downward trend I tend to be quiet and passive. When I am in an upward trend I tend to be aggressive. And what I’d like to be is balanced. Assertive. Clear about what I want. Open to ideas. And open to negotiation and not getting what I want. The trick is staying in the assertive mode without getting angry, frustrated, or impatient. As we move towards aggressive we become what my ex-wife referred to as my porcupine. We tend to want what we want. Everyone else can either get with the program or get left behind. That’s not a very healthy way to be in any relationship.

Having recently come out of a DOWN state, my energies are flying pretty high, I am actively moderating my energy and approach. I am trying to pay attention to my energy towards others. Yes, I find myself impatient, but I’m checking my frustration and letting it go with a deep breath. I’m noticing my thoughts of self-importance and I’m humbling myself and pressing pause on the grandiose ideas.

Assertive Rather Than Aggressive

I’m learning to ask for what I want again. Now, to some people, who have been around me over the Covid break, my new voice of desire may surprise them. I’ve suddenly got ideas about where to eat, about what movie to watch, about what I’d like to do with my Sunday afternoon. This newly energized focus can lead some people to believe I am being an asshole. But my goal is not to be aggressive about it. Not to put too much focus on if I get my way or not. In fact, my goal is to be flexible and to listen as best as I can.

I am not always that good a modulating my phase shift, as I’ve come to call my renewed vigor and energy. But I’m good at managing my happy phase so it does not shift into a manic phase. Sure, I might get a bit assholiness from time to time, we might disagree, but my goal is to find common ground. Sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes reaching a compromise is difficult. I always try.

In managing my relationships, it is up to me to be self-aware and to match my energy and enthusiasm level to that of the person I’m with. It’s always a bit awkward when I’m really up and the person I’m with is an introvert and feels like they are getting run over. Oh well. The idea is to find my happy place, assertive and open at the same time. And I listen for my own anger and frustration, that’s when I know I’m slipping over into aggression. Time for a time out.

How do you manage your happy moments in your relationships? And what can you do to slow your down moments to lessen the fall and damage? Depression after divorce is real. Since dad’s often get less of their kids’ time, and this too can be a difficult experience. Learning to move away from the assholiness and back towards a kind co-parent is always a good direction to point yourself.

Point yourself back towards kindness while continuing to be assertive about what you and your children need.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women in 1 x 1 zoom or facetime calls. I work in monthly blocks (4 sessions). We establish a relationship. I become your wingman in navigating and sorting through the bullshit of dating and relationships. If you are here, you’ve probably already read some of my opinions. If we’re a fit, we will both know on our first call.

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