Last time we learnt about assertiveness. Some people are more assertive and some are less. But no one is perfectly assertive all the time. We all deal with other people, things we have to do in life, and with our own selves in many ways. Sometimes we are assertive; sometimes we are not.
So let us examine the ways we adopt when we are not very assertive. Today we would learn about the passive approach:
When we unduly succumb our wishes, hopes, dreams, needs, wants and likes to those of others, we behave passively. Now if you can recall the main example given in the last article, Dr. Pamudi’s character, you would see how assertive she is. She felt that a particular clinic was important to be continued, while a local politician thought otherwise and influenced her to comply with his wish. She thought her wish to continue to serve these people, as she felt that that was the right decision, was more important to her than the wish of the politician. Another doctor who is more passive rather than assertive, would feel that the wish of the politician is more important than her own. And she would probably discontinue the conduct of the clinic.
However being passive is easier and more convenient that being assertive. All you have to do is just accept what others tell you. If there are differing opinions, you find out who is most powerful (or has the loudest voice) and accept his opinion as the right one. After a while you would start feeling that your own opinion is the one you just adopted. When that person changes his opinion, you opinion changes accordingly.
Living a life of passiveness gives you misery on the long run. For a while you might feel okay; even good. Everybody says you are very nice, you never say ‘no’ and you are the perfect doctor/ wife/ husband/ son-in-law/ daughter-in-law/ friend/ employee. But after a while you start feeling very stressed and unhappy. You are not free to make decisions. Every decision has to be checked with some one or another. You start feeling that you can’ t make any decision without the help of others. You tend to be overly dependent on others. This is called disempowerment.
When more than one person influence your decision making, as it is the case commonly, things get even worse. Your mother asks you to have a second child soon, while your mother-in-law is dead against that. You wife says that you need to ‘balance everybody yourself if you are a real man’, and refrains from expressing her wish. (It would be interesting to analyse her approach, which we can do with our next segment.) And you hear on TV that you need to produce lot of offspring nowadays to avoid a certain national calamity about to befall your race. A friend says a gap in children improves your sex life.
If you tell everybody go fly a kite, and have a no hanky-panky chat with your wife and decide what to do, then you are assertive. If you feel helpless, stressed and not knowing what to do, and feeling like your mind is about a blow the main fuse, you are most likely to have been acting passively.
When we are passive, we tend to neglect our welfare, our happiness and freedom. Hence passive people are miserable, tense and lacking in progress in life. This would affect their families too, especially if the spouse, too, is passive.
Let us run through the examples given in last post on assertiveness to see how a passive person faces them.
- Red light: You have a red light and you stop. The private bus behind you starts honking, obviously asking you to break the red light. The traffic flow is such there are gaps that you might actually get away with it. What would you do now? The man is incessantly honking. The passive person would think this bus driver has a might hurry for some valid reason and ‘he may be right, it may be okay to break this particular red light at this time of the day or something, you know!’ Hence the passive person may break the red light unless, somebody more powerful (police, spouse inside car) says not to.
- Striking at work/ university: The union leaders would announce that ‘today is strike day’ – nobody goes for lectures. If you are passive, you would not ask questions and just do what you are told.
- Abscond school: The friend tells the boy to jump the wall and go for a swim at the beach and have a beer. The boy does not want to do it. This is inviting unnecessary trouble. By the way beer tastes horrible. But if he does not have enough assertiveness to say ‘no’, he would say ‘yes’. The passive boy would accept this disastrous invitation. Even if he says a weak ‘no’, the friend would ridicule him saying ‘you are a sissy!’, which would bring out a ‘yes, I will come’ this time.
- Alcohol invitation: You have planned to go on a family excursion tomorrow and your friend asks you to have alcohol with him tonight at a party. Your wife is waiting to go home early tonight and get ready to leave at dusk tomorrow with children. “Aha! So you fear your wife, eh?” is your friend’s response to your refusal. The passive one would say “to hell with her, machang!” and drink. The Assertive would say “No, machang. I love her not fear her”, which would shut up the friend with a bit of a nasty blow to his poor ego!