One of the things I absolutely love is when my students write me in email seeking clarification from Assurance – my signature assertiveness e-course.
This week, one of my students from Australia wrote me for clarification from Week 3 of the course: The Negative Side of Assertiveness.
Now, this isn’t what you think. It’s actually the week where I cover the following topics:
- Handling Your Anger
- Handling the Anger of Others
- The Art of Resolving Conflict Well
- Critical Feedback: Giving it
- Critical Feedback: Receiving it
- Mastering Saying “No” When Saying “Yes” is Popular
- How To Handle Rejection
- How To Handle Failure
So by “negative”, I just mean all the things that appear to be negative things on the outside. Rejection, failure, conflict, feedback, anger – these are all things we associate with negative feelings & negative emotions most of the time, when usually they’re opportunities for growth we’re missing.
As this student worked through the content of this week, she wrote me the following questions:
- Is it okay to ask for an apology if someone hurts or wrongs you? and;
- Is there an assertive way to do it?
My response is parallel to one of the core beliefs I hold dear here at Modernity and also one of my incredible gifts – get to the ROOT of the issue. Anything else is only filling space.
So I laid out a thought path for her this way:
1. Why do you feel you NEED or have to have an apology to begin with? I can tell you the honest answer is that we often feel we need it because it’s actually what our ego needs – not our true self. When we believe the thought, “I need him to apologize or I need her to apologize or they should apologize”, we immediately act from the belief of that thought. The ego loves that process of making ourselves feel good by forcing another person to do what we want them to do or assigning them a social convention with no questions asked. Just because a thought exists doesn’t mean we have to believe it. Is it true that our partner should apologize or the person who hurt us? How can we know it to be true? Who are you without the thought that “my partner should apologize?’ Are you more at peace? Calm? Self-assured?
2. Our egos are what need certain things to happen to validate ourselves. The true self doesn’t need that validation. It has a pure ability to exist without the thought of “should” or that I can only explore my own growth points if they explore theirs.
**This FREES you from needing their apology to validate your peace. Otherwise, your peace of mind is saying that it can’t exist without the apology. That’s where resentment and bitterness come from in the spirit realm. When I let go of the thoughts, I’m free of needing it. I can exist without hearing “I’m sorry” ever again, and THAT is freedom!
3. Apologies, on the other hand, are not bad in and of themselves. And we’re not saying they’re not welcomed. Whether or not an apology comes however, shouldn’t inhibit us from exploring our own growth points and/or seeing the other person. By believing the thought they should apologize, we likely stop ourselves immediately from seeing that person purely and hearing them the way we need to.
As soon as we assign a “should”, we have created an expectation. When that expectation isn’t met, we become unhappy and suffer. This is the human condition.
I then shared a supplemental video from Byron Katie, and asked her to cement the teaching that way by replacing the verbiage in the video with her verbiage. Replace “my daughter is never going to forgive me” with “__________ is never going to apologize.” (And the like). The work is the same.
Gosh, this is SUCH beautiful work!!! It’s the work most people don’t want to do in relationships, and it’s why we have so many people NOT free. We must learn to question our own thoughts & behaviors.
This response answered her second question simultaneously:
“I’ve always thought that it’s important for both people to recognise the part that they played in a conflict arising and to apologise as a way of acknowledging the other person’s feelings and needs and your own “growth points” (I love this expression of yours [from the course]) before moving on to resolution (or, if not then, anytime later because I do believe it’s never too late to apologise).”
Key Phrase: “I’ve always thought…..”
Us humans are REALLY great at saying that, aren’t we? I’ve always thought…….I was always taught……..I’ve always been of the mindset……..
We can literally cling to our thoughts like they completely rule us and can’t be changed.
I asked her to explore why she’s believing the thought that there should always be an apology, as a result of this process.
We tend to believe things we were taught and basic social conventions we were taught without ever questioning them, which is why we sometimes suffer.
I received a response from her today, and this is only a small excerpt:
The thing that you taught which made the most difference to me was that the need for validation comes from the ego. I was able to apply this to not only apologies but also everything else! I’m on a journey from having low self-esteem to true, deep “conscious” confidence 🙂 right now. Becoming aware of where, in our everyday lives together, I seek my girlfriend’s validation is allowing me to replace this thought “if she does this, then it must mean I am this” with “there is nothing that anyone else can do, think or say which diminishes my unique beauty or my human rights”. I’m still at the very beginning of this journey and it’s hard work but it’s already made a difference to the way I feel about myself.
As a teacher, these exchanges with my students are the highlight of my calling and life as I know it. As a reader here, you also get the benefit of being a part of the work that we do here.
I wanted to share this with you to strengthen you, let you know you’re not alone if someone has hurt you and you feel they “owe” you an “I’m sorry”, or you are upset about a situation.
Your feelings are valid, and we can’t do better until we know better. We’re all in this together.
Let me know what, if anything, in this teaching today helped or blessed you. And don’t be afraid to do the work!
My students and the women who take this path are my heroes because I know they’re getting to the root of the issue.
If you’d like to learn more about assertiveness as a lifestyle, click here. Otherwise, thank you for reading and engaging in self-discovery.
PS – If you’re not familiar with “the work” by Byron Katie, it’s a basic 4 questions to work through soooooo many thoughts and things in our lives. Here they are:
- Is it true?
- How can you know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Photography by Molly Moon