Monday, February 25, 2013

Becoming More Assertive: Progress

As detailed a bit ago, one of my side-objectives right now is to practice becoming more assertive. I think that a large portion of my lack of career success is the result of my not being assertive enough in asking for what I deserve, so I've let people do me over because I've naively trusted them to reward me eventually . . . which doesn't happen.

Ever since I've identified the mental state I called The State of Complete Vigor I've been really keen on watching what factors are present/absent when I achieve certain results in my life. It's really an empowering tool since it's enabling much more control over some really desirable things, such as the Vigor wherein I make my mind operate at 120 mph: Keep track of the factors, and you can initiate and sustain it at will.

I've been applying that kind of searching awareness to my assertiveness practice and have been making some decent headway. For one and for the most part, "disregarding" people's feelings has been an immense help in making me stand up for myself, as my influence upon a person remains constant and present when I don't flinch and shy away when a tantrum occurs, which unfortunately happens often in a multitude of degrees.

I think I realize the essential reason why this is, and the major reason why people are afraid to be assertive: They think that feelings in themselves are really important, so they really alter their behavior to their detriment to kowtow to someone's emotions -- which is bad if a person happens to be irrational -- and grow extremely shy if a person acts up, believing that the person is either overpowering them somehow or that they have moral responsibility in that offense, the latter of which chips at their self-confidence.

For me, it's mostly the "overpowering" aspect. Given my Factor X and that I grew up around a lot of psychologically damaged people I was constantly immersed in explosive and unhealthy behaviors at the slightest provocation and most silly scenario. (I could get someone into hysterics by saying a dish needs a touch more salt.) Being unable to get away from those crazy mannerisms for so long had instilled a premise in me that feelings matter, somehow, and that a person will overpower and damage me somehow if I accidentally strike a nerve ending . . . which is hard to avoid with the person's emotional nature happens to be that of one big nerve ending. As such, to avoid froth getting sprayed on me 24/7, I retreated into a kind of shell to get some sense of peace.

That shell, however, is unhelpful here in Texas, where I find myself in a state culture with more mentally sound people. Now it's mostly the notorious Factor X that gets people off, and I shy away at people's preposterous mannerisms when I speak to them or make requests.

What I've learned is that by explicitly noting to myself that feelings have no moral worth and that I am acting within objective manners of politeness that it gives me a kind of calmness where I don't react to another person's outburst. When this knowledge is strongest in my mind I am able to watch on in unaffected difference as people rattle at an anxious pace, punch the wall, snap at me, and so on, as it is also dominant in my mind that my behavior is objectively appropriate, so I don't falter since I'm confident in my high-ground. The calmness that premise gives me enables me to be more open about my controversial intellectual views and, hey!, even sharper in my intellect and wit, as in normally intimidating conversation my mind is able to focus fully on the content on what the other person is saying and how I ought to respond to it, rather than shaking anxiously, stuttering, and trying to move away from what could turn into an emotional outburst. The indifference can be amusing in watching someone fall apart while I stay steady.

An additional -- and strange -- component I've learned of Factor X is that there's this weird memory factor where people will contemplate their interactions with me and be fond of me, but for some reason be unable to bear extended contact. Concretely, I've dealt with many bosses who will try to speak to me as little as possible, be visibly anxious in our conversations and eager to cut it off, and despite all that seeming evidence they dislike me they'll reward me with oodles of hours, some pay incentives, and a good load of responsibility, as well as tell me how much they value me. In other words, I've had a lot of "friends" who admire me from a distance, in that they can't control their emotions when they're facing Factor X, but after the moment has passed they're able to calmly reflect on it and reach a more accurate estimate of it. It's bizarre, but I think most people in one way or another may like me because/despite of Factor X, only they aren't willing to control their irrational responses when I'm actually talking to them.

That's been foistering my self-confidence and assertiveness in that I realize that no matter how much a person will act up in the moment it's likely to happen they'll value me in the long-run for it, or else destroy themselves with emotionalistic outbursts. It's like a freaking formula where a coworker will be completely agitated the entire night whenever I talk to him, and yet the next day he'll be very welcoming, warm, smiley, and friendly with me. (Until I talk to him again, wherein the cycle will repeat.) As such, I try to endure the lashouts with the knowledge they're going to be fonder of me tomorrow for it . . . paradoxically.

I'm going to keep working on this front, such as by reading The Assertiveness Workbook, but my basic advice to anyone is that it's immensely empowering to understand that feelings in themselves have no power, even though they feel like that inside your body. Speaking in a non-violent context, another person's anger is not going to materialize in a fireball which will incinerate you; just a red face, raised voice, and indecent speech. Obtaining indifference in these situations is the goal here, as it's key to keeping your mind entirely on the substance of what's going on, as allowing anxiety to surface is surely going to tangle up your emotions and cause you to trip.

One thing that really helps is mentally rehearsing conversations in your head. I think a lot of the anxiety that results in uncomfortable topics is that you don't feel prepared to address the unfolding possibilities, so you get tangled up in your emotions because a person keeps tossing you unexpected twists you haven't thought about, and therefore you have no planned response for. Granted, you can't figure every angle, especially if you don't know the person's personality, but a quick and thorough shift-through of what you can predict will fundamentally equip you and help obtain helpful indifference, for if it unfolds in reality as you've seen you will be comfortable since you "experienced" it already in your imagination.

My process in developing internal strength goes on.

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