Effectively assertive

Dr Wayne Dyer believes that most people are nicer to total strangers than they are to their loved ones and to themselves.

How do you get treated by people? Are you repeatedly used and abused? Do you find others taking advantage of you, and not respecting you as a person? Do people make plans with­out asking you and just assume you will go along? Do you find yourself in roles you dislike because every­one else in your life expects you to behave as you do?

These are some of the common laments Dr Dyer heard from clients and friends who felt victimised in multitudinous ways. His response was generally the same: “You get treated the way you teach people to treat you.”

If you feel abused by others treatment of you, then look at your own thinking and behaviour, and ask why you have permitted or even encouraged the abuse you complain of. If you do not make yourself responsible for how you are treated, you will continue to be powerless to do anything about it.

Epictetus summed up these ideas centuries ago: “It is not he who give abuse that affronts, but the view we take of it as insulting; so that when one provokes you it is your own opinion which is provoking.”

Your hurt comes not from what others do to you, but from what you choose to do with their actions. If you change your attitude and expec­tations about being hurt, then you will soon find the abuse terminating, and your victim status eliminated.



You teach others how to treat you based on what you will tolerate. If you simply “take it,” and you have been for a long time, then you have sent out the message that you will not resist abuse.

This is not a very complicated theory. If you send out the message that you simply will not tolerate abuse, and back it up with effective behaviour, your abusers will not receive the payoff they are looking for, which is to see you immobilised so that they can manipulate you. But if you just take their string pulling, or register mild objections and then go right on being controlled, you are teaching them to continue using as a dumping ground.

In any abusive situation, if you react from strength and firm intol­erance for the abusive behaviour right from the very beginning, you would finally have thought the abuser something very important – that you will not indulge in such nasty behaviour for one second.

However, if your reaction is disastrously different, you may cry, act hurt or insulted, or show fear. Whatever the case, you send out fatal signal that you would not necessarily like the way you are being treated, but that you would take it, and even more significant­ly, that you would let yourself be manipulated emotionally by it.


“We should believe only in deeds; words go for nothing ev­erywhere,” says Fernando Rojas. If you attempt to get your important messages of non-victimisation across through lengthy discussions, your only payoffs will be the words used. Long discussions are very often the tools that victimisers use anyway. They may pretend they see your point and even promise they will not do anything of the sort to you again. But the next time the problem crops up, your entire dis­cussion is forgotten, and you end up with the same old treatment. If you then have another talk and agree that things will be straight­ened out, you get yourself even more deeply into the word trap. There may be lots of “communi­cation” between you and everyone else, but until you learn to behave in effective ways you will still get pushed around, and you will still talk about it a lot.

The most effective teacher in the world is behaviour. Action that demonstrates your resolve is worth a million well-intended words. Behaviour is the only way to teach others not to bully you. By standing up and taking the risk, even though you might get “hit back,” you send out a message that you are not interested in being bullied, and that you simply will not take it.

Forget all those fancy words and promises when it comes to people that push you around in any way. Carlyle put it this way: “If you do not wish a man to do a thing, you had better get him to talk about it; for the more men talk, the more likely they are to do nothing else.” Whenever you are trying to explain to someone how you want to be treated, ask yourself if your explanation is really accomplishing anything.


Dr. Dyer is of the opinion th

at one of the more illogical victimizing games people play on themselves is to expect totally unrealistic things of others, and when things do not live up to their expectations, they are shocked, scandalized, offended, distraught. A classic example of this kind of self-victimizing thinking lies in the way many people react to drunks.

Here is a drunk. You have spot­ted and labeled him as a drunk, and you know very well what a drunk is. Now if you find yourself upset when this drunk acts drunk, are you in tune with the world and the way it works? And who is the crazy person? The drunk who acts drunken ways, or you who expect him to act soberly.

If you expect many drunks to be unruly, overly talkative, uncoor­dinated, or whatever, you should hardly be surprised when a drunk displays this behaviour, and you should act accordingly: Ignore him, get away from him, or whatever strat­egy that works. You thereby avoid allowing him to pull your strings in any way.

Here are some examples of the general “expecting sober behaviour from a drunk” mentality that victim­izes many people.

“My wife is a quiet person. It really upsets me that he does not talk to me more.” Oh really? What do you expect from a quiet person, noise? If your spouse is quiet, being upset when he or she does exactly what you would predict is absurd.

“My kid does not care about play­ing ball. It really upsets me that he is not athletic.” Aba! Why would you expect someone who does not want to kick a ball around to be good at it? So who is weird? The kid, who is doing just what you would expect, or you, who expect an unathletic kid to be athletic?

This kind of list could obviously go on forever, and it does. The point is that whether or not you begin to teach people to eliminate habits that impose on you, you teach them that you will not allow yourself to be hurt or immobilized by them when they are only behaving just as you would have predicted.




Many people assume that being assertive means being unpleasant or deliberately offensive, but it does not. “It means making bold, confident declarations in defense of your rights, or your non-victim position.”

You can learn the art of disagree­ing without being disagreeable, and you can stand up for yourself with­out being cantankerous. If you get treated the way you teach others to treat you, then without assertiveness you are most unlikely ever be treated as anything but a victim.

People who achieve their goals by pulling their own strings are unafraid to risk standing up and insisting upon their rights when they are threatened. They have learned how to fight their internal fears.

They are firm and unwilling to back off in the face of potential vic­timizers. The other side of the coin is that the more you avoid assertive be­haviours, the more you teach others that you are willing to be their victim.

You get treated the way you teach people to treat you. If you adopt this as a guiding principle of your life, you will be on your way to always pulling your own strings.

Do not compromise of the basic idea – because to believe otherwise is to give up control of yourself to all those who would gladly take over the reins if you are willing to loosen your hold.


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