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How Learn to Live Delivers CBT: Part 11 

How do you handle situations where the other person is doing something that creates problems for you? We all respond in our own ways. Do you find yourself acting like a doormat? Do you become an aggressive bully? Are you someone who stings others from the side so you can’t be discovered? Are you someone who just speaks up? Which one do you think you are most of the time?  

We think it’s good to know how you react when things get hard. This can help you handle tough spots better and have good relationships with other people. Some of our programs offer an assessment that helps you learn your own style of resolving differences with others. Here’s what we find: 

  • 33% report that they are the doormats who feel like they get stepped on far too often. 
  • 4% learn that they are bullies who tend to step on others when they’re upset. 
  • 19% report that they are indirectly stinging others from the side when they’re upset. 
  • 44% speak up for themselves. 

People who let others treat them badly over and over tend to have less healthy and happy lives. The same is true for people who are always aggressive and those who hurt others in sneaky ways. 

There are great reasons why people really benefit from learning how to be direct and upfront in resolving challenges. We built our programs to show people how to be up-front in their communication. This direct style of communication is often called assertiveness. It tends to work the best because, when we speak up directly, people know where we stand and what we really want. And, because we are not trying to hurt anyone deliberately, we don’t unnecessarily make enemies. 

I think it’s important to teach people how to use two different models of assertiveness. These are the three-part and the one-part approaches. The traditional three-part model looks like this: “when you do X, I feel Y, so in the future please do Z.” And that tends to work well when we are engaging with someone who cares about our feelings. 

But what about the situation where the other person isn’t really interested in our feelings? What if your grumpy neighbor consistently blocked your driveway? Would saying “When you block my driveway with your street rod every Friday, I feel hurt and sad. In the future would you please park elsewhere?” How well would that work? There’s a good chance that that person does not really care how we feel. In this case, we suggest the one-part message, “please stop doing X”. With the one-part message we simply ask the neighbor who’s blocking our driveway to please park somewhere else.  

Great! You’ve taken the first step. But what if they still block your driveway? What if they don’t respond at all? Or avoid you? Or make a sarcastic comment? We call this pushback. But there’s good news. Anyone can use the broken record approach. I imagine you can guess how that might work. When they don’t respond or they give unclear responses, you can just repeat your request, even in the same words, until they respond. 

My hope is that if you’ve been feeling squashed like a doormat or you aren’t satisfied with how you’ve been either directly or indirectly aggressive toward others when you don’t like how things are going, that you will consider building some new direct assertiveness skills. It just might be time for you to speak up.