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My journey to assertiveness

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Well done, John!

Very good in both situations.
As you've noticed yourself, the bit where you talked about confidence might have been omitted.

Not necessarily a mistake in all situations, but in a work scenario, especially in a slightlyy combative workplace, it might have been better to leave it out.
With those types of individuals who approach social relationships with a power scalper attitude, you better always leave the feelings out and only deal with them in a professional, distant attitude (one of the reasons why lots of people like her make for bad workplaces).

Quote from John Freeman on October 27, 2020, 12:06 am

Also on the way back, the nurse was taking the same bus as me. I did not talk to her and did not sit next to her. So I understand you must not show your enemies that they hurt you. Do you think my behavior was adequate? Or should I have kept her closer?

Personally, I would have looked at her, trying to catch her eye contact.
And if she looked at you, I would have said hi with a smile.

That was going to be your olive branch.

Battle of Egos

These situations are relatively common in socialization, and can become a battle of egos. At that point, it's the ego that keeps the relationship combative more than any real/rational reason.

And this is where the "power of vulnerability" can indeed be power.
Posing an olive branch is a sign of mental and emotional control, it's the sign of you doing what's more effective, rather than not doing it out of (emotional) self-protection.

Similar situation when two lovers don't contact each other out of ego, waiting for the other to make the first move (an "inverted showdown" scenario).
But those are often situations where speaking first about you liked/didn't like and what you expect would far more leader-like.

There is a limit, of course.
If you pose a few olive branches and get spurned again and again, then if you keep trying to mend the relationship you enter the needy/chasing role.
After a certain point, you might have to write the individual off as unworthy of a win-win relationship and only deal with them on a "have to" basis.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

@kellvo: thank you very much for your analysis and perspective! I was going to quote some of it but I would have ended up quotting your whole post. You saw clearly in this dynamic: it's quite a dogmatic, political environment.

@lucio: thank you very much for your answer! I have thought more and more these days about the olive branch. About less enemies and more friends. It's definitely something I can improve on.

Hi there John,

Just been reading through your journal... it's great, and so inspiring, to see someone making such tangible progress... love it! My hat's off to you... so you're a doctor?

keep up the good work



Musicforthejuan has reacted to this post.

Hello Lucas,

well, if you've read my journal, you know the answer. 😉

keep up the good work!


Hello guys,

here is an update. A "friend" of mine who is quite egocentric hurt me twice in the last week and it was each time we were seeing one another. Keep in mind that he's a psychiatrist in training so he's well aware of a lot of psychology stuff.

First encounter about 1 month ago: I invite him to my favorite bar and he attacks me on our conversation about rationality and irrationality. Basically implying that I'm superstitious which to me is an insult. He's not a spiritual person so to him, it's all the same. I noticed he was smiling when he saw that I got pissed off and started to explain myself. I was a bit drunk, but the point is the covert aggression.

Second encounter this friday: he invites us to his place (which he has never done before). He's moving from town A to town B and airbnb his flat from town A. So it's the first time he's inviting us. We bring food and drinks, the 3rd friend and me from a thai restaurant. Notice that the day before he said: "I don't know how we're going to do with the food" and when I asked him an explanation he did not answer. We were supposed to meet at 8:30pm at his place and he had an appointment from 8 to 8:30 to sell his couch. So basically, the plan was that we would buy the food and bring it to his flat. I was ready that he would attack me at some point because of his narcisstic tendencies so I was a bit on the defensive. I brought a board game, we played and all was fine. At a point, I was talking about how much I loved children, so basically I open my heart to my friends. And at this very moment he says that Michael Jackson also loved children. So he's implying that I'm a pedophile. I was not going to talk about the first incident this night because our 3rd friend was there but my intention was to confront him. Another thing is that his flat is empty. I go to the bathroom to take a dump and I find that there is no toilet paper. I ask him if he has any and he says no and he laughs behind the door, saying that I can use the water. I finally find a rag in the bathroom and I use it as toilet paper (sorry for the details). So what kind of friend is that? He also never asked who paid for the food and to whom he owes money. Notice also that now he's renting two flats and only using one as the other is to make money.

I was already cautious of him. But this was too much. I called him today and I ask him about the money, he tells me to send him my bank details, which I will be doing. Then I process to tell him that I felt attacked the first time and hurt the second time. He goes by saying "if it's like that, I won't be authentic around you anymore". I say it is a threat and he says that "with you it's always a threat". I'm saying that all I'm doing is express myself and he's putting it on me. Meanwhile I feel pissed and tell him that his answer is quite revealing. Long story short, that if it was me I would apologize for hurting him that it was not my intention. All along, he wanted me to explain myself. I tell him that he's a psychiatrist so it's a bit worrying if he does not understand. And that I expect from a friend to be on my side not to attack me on topics which are dear to me when I open up to him. He apologizes but I'm not sure it was heartfelt. I say that I accept his apologies. Then I neutralize the whole thing by saying that I'm sorry to call with such a disagreeable topic but to prevent resentment I had to speak up. So we end up neutral. I don't give all the details, but that's the gist of it: he tried to shame me or make me feel guilty for enforcing my boundaries as I was just expressing myself.

The Michael Jackson joke could be funny for me as well, it was the context that made me react like this. It was coming from him in this situation.

To me, this guys is a huge taker, not respectful of me and I don't want him in my close circle. I needed guys like him as I was rebuilding my social life (quantity->quality) but now I can see him as little as possible. I'll come if he invites me but I won't be inviting him anymore. Now I have higher quality friends, among whom one I met through him. I'm grateful to him but I'm passed to allow this kind of people in my life. In every glass of wine, they pour a drop of poison. And I'm only interested in the wine. People are not perfect, but once one sees a pattern, it's important to acknowledge it and take it into account. In the past I let for way too long people like this suck my positive energy and self-esteem.

He helped me in the past and it was the basis of my loyalty but I repaid it already 10 times.

Also, he told us we had to end the night around 11pm and go home because he got in trouble with his neighbor for the noise. He’s going to start this Airbnb and could get in trouble for this or at least he thinks so. And today at the end of the call at the end his concern was that he was afraid we would have continued the party without him. So he’s definitely not on the quality level character-wise that I’m looking for. During the call he also accused me to want to control the conversation (projection?) which I denied by saying that I was only expressing how I felt and that he could do whatever he wanted with this information. That’s the power of honesty and assertiveness: I’m not trying to control you but you cannot control me either.


PS: me posting less means also that I’m dealing better with social challenges thanks to assertiveness, PU and all the help I’ve been getting here.

Hello Lucio,

I would like to have your opinion on my last journal entry. Could you give me your feed-back on it? That would be helpful for me.


Hey John,

Yeah, it sounds like this one soured.

A few quick notes:

  • The spiritual & MJ jokes

When you wrote that he was smiling, it seemed to me like he was taking  a smart-alec approach to relationships (ie.: "I'm intellectually superior to you").
It's normal, understandable, and fair that you felt slighted and offended.
And good call on considering him not good enough for a closer friendship.

Same for the MJ joke.
That was a case when telling the joke might have been OK, depending on the atmosphere, but it should have been followed by a "just joking, go ahead man, so you like kids... " to rebuild rapport and make people feel emotionally safe.

  • Not giving back money for the food

Money stuff depends a lot from person to person, as well as culture.

I've had people that after months I hadn't seen them, they gave me back 50cents and even told me "you can hit me up for 50 cents".

I personally wouldn't have considered a con for him not to volunteer money back AS LONG as he provided something at home OR made verbal amends -such as "sorry guys, I got really nothing here, and thank you, thank you so much for bringing this stuff".
If he didn't, it's another sign against him as he's not partaking in a fair exchange (unless he's very liberal with money to the point of not caring and/or he doesn't have any).

And if he had offered money that evening, I personally wouldn't have taken them.

  • Asking for money back on the call

Again, depends a lot on person to person and I'd consider it fair if someone asked for the money back if that's how they usually are (like the guy who gave me back 50 cents, he'd have asked, but that's how he approaches money)

However, in this case, I would have steered away from asking for money.

The reason is that it might feel like one is out to destroy them.
The spiritual thing, the Jackson's joke, the money he doesn't give back... Put them all together, and for the receiver it might feel like someone is throwing the whole kitchen sink at them, trying their best to show them "how really rotten they are".

Best to keep things separated.
You called him to deal with what you felt was disrespectful behavior (friend / emotional side), deal with that and keep the money (pragmatic / more transactional side) off (at least for now).

  • The "worrying for a psychiatrist not to understand"

John, that was hard-hitting.

I don't know the context and how / when it was said, but that certainly had the potential of being something very, very strong to say.
It might be true indeed that it's worrying, but that doesn't make it less strong.

The way in which I could have said something similar would have been if framed in a more uplifting, "you can do it" way, like:

You: Man, come on! (as if to say: see things my way, collaborate here, I expect this from you / from a friend) You're a psychiatrist, don't you see the dynamics here?

Such as, "you CAN see them, you're just missing them right now, so please try because that's the only way we're going to solve this".

  • Fading away VS speaking one's mind: fade away when you 

Assertiveness is great, but some people cannot take assertiveness.

And it's not the best strategy for all situations.

In this case, I might have not sought clarification, but just let him fade away, so to speak.
There is a thread where I detailed the story of a relationship with a huge "proud value-taker". I never confronted him and never planned to, just faded him.

When it comes to important character traits, it's tough to be honest and not offend/escalate with someone.

If you had to be really 100% honest, what are you going to say "you're a huge value drain, I can't have you as a close friend"?

That's the truth, but it's one of those truths you tell to yourself.
So since you can't take the conversation to 100% honesty, I wouldn't even start at all along that road.

Fading away in this case is best for both: they don't get hurt, and you keep a distant "someone you know" (VS an almost enemy).

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks a lot for your answer, this is very valuable to me.

If he didn't, it's another sign against him as he's not partaking in a fair exchange (unless he's very liberal with money to the point of not caring and/or he doesn't have any).

He did not. We brought food and it was as he expected it. Note that the day before he did not even propose to cook for us (as I would do). So he was expecting to have takeaway food AND us to pay for it. And when we're out he's most often waiting for me or others to pay a round, which I love to do. And I'm never counting when I'm out and offering drinks. But when he's with me I know I have to be careful otherwise I pay drinks, he does not and go home and I feel like I've been scammed. So now I always make sure that he offers drinks as well. It's a pattern of someone stingy with friends but who has 2 appartments.

I agree it was a lot on one call and I apologized for it to him. It's the second time also that I pay something he was supposed to give me back and that I have to ask him to pay me with through my bank, which he did yesterday. Now he has kind of a social pressure on this topic. My other friend who was with me when we bought the food, even said: "You're paying for A.?" like I was going to jump over the grand Canyon. And also because I told him that he annoyed me last time. But this was my olive branch actually. I was like: I'm going to pay for him just as I would for any other of my friend. That he's stingy with money and he hurt me last time it's all good.

For me generosity is one of my criteria for my close friends as I am like this and it's fun only if you're surrounded by generous people as it creates an evergrowing dynamics of fun and craziness. In the past I was too generous and people abused it. However, I like to be generous so if I cannot be, then I feel like I have to hold back.

About the psychiatrist, I agree it's harsh. However, I pulled that card only after he pretended not to understand why I was offended. So it was like: "either you're incompetent or you're playing dumb". I knew he was playing dumb as he was trying to get me to explain myself to shift the power dynamics in his favor to make me appear like I'm weird or inappropriate for setting such a boundary: "so I won't be authentic with you anymore" (with some blackmail peppered on top). However, regarding the frame and phrasing you're proposing, I'm 100% with you. Basically, shaming me for enforcing my boundaries. Also, I'm sure you remember in another story that he pulls his "psychiatrist card" every time we go out if we're in a conversation to show off his knowledge and skills. So he had it coming: "You want to say that you're a psychiatrist? Well, when it counts where is your card?". In the conversation, not only did he not apologize when I confronted him but he tried to shame me and that angered me.

Regarding fading away: in this case I don't agree with you unfortunately. I would have in the past but I changed recently. Most of my emotional pain in my life came for keeping resentment inside against the person and sadness for letting myself get disrespected. Not anymore. Thanks to the book about 8 keys to eliminate passive-aggressiveness, I now am a firm believer that speaking one's mind is necessary for emotional health. At work and in certain situation it's not warranted I agree

I told him: "I surround myself with people who support me and lift me up" and "I'm telling you that so there's no resentement in me towards you, because otherwise next time I see you, I will have some and now I don't anymore". That's the truth. It's not blackmail, it's not a death sentence, it's actually the most honest explanation of my behavior. I will fade him away AS WELL. But I also know thanks to a previous situation like this that letting the other know my standard puts me in the position to choose them and not the other way around. I agree that assertiveness is not for all situations, but I think it's appropriate in this one.

Something else you have to know that N., the friend who come into the thai restaurant to buy food to takeaway already faded A. for about a year. It's actually me who got them together at a bar where they could explain themselves a few months ago. And now they get along again. N's girlfriend really did not like A. That does not tell a lot by N's girlfriend but it tells a lot by N's behavior and my own experience with A.

About assertiveness or fading away 

I might agree with fading away in this situation and not confront it, maybe because is people you don't really care about, or it's just not worth it, sometime it’s not worth at all investing time or energy in someone, but that's up to John.

If you had to be really 100% honest, what are you going to say "you're a huge value drain, I can't have you as a close friend"?

That's the truth, but it's one of those truths you tell to yourself.

It's really like that, though? I mean, yes, you're being radically %100 honest, but I think it's important to have your intention clear behind what you say, and for that, I mean having the intention of having collaborative relationships, or at least not try to make enemies, as advised on this site, and I don't know how saying that, are you trying that.

By the way, I would like to know what do you mean by this (If it's not inappropriate, considering that this thread is personal):

Assertiveness is great, but some people cannot take assertiveness.

When it comes to important character traits, it's tough to be honest and not offend/escalate with someone.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Hey John,
Yeah, I understand better now with more details, both on the use of the "psychiatrist card" -which is more appropriate within the context-, and for the paying situation.
Still not sure whether I would have personally called and clarified VS simply distanced myself in this case, but I see your point in fading away VS speaking one's mind, and partially agree to it.
Quote from Rorabo on November 18, 2020, 11:13 am


Assertiveness is great, but some people cannot take assertiveness.

When it comes to important character traits, it's tough to be honest and not offend/escalate with someone.

Hey man, welcome here!

I agree with you on not being worth it to invest time and energy on someone you already know is not going to remain close to you.

Furthermore, what I mean by the two lines you are asking about, is that once in your mind you deem someone "not good enough" for you or for your closer circle, it's difficult to communicate that honestly and assertively without breaking their heart, breaking -shattering, might be more adapt- rapport, and potentially making an enemy.

Sometimes you can, and sometimes you can also help them lift themselves up and reach a great win-win, but:

  1. They must be willing and ready for it
  2. You must have some sort of leverage on them (that's why in PU I recommend this approach with intimate relationships: you have that kind of leverage)

And those, especially #1, are the exceptions, not the norm.
The majority of people instead will resent your honesty.
Result is that you will possibly make them worse instead of better, and you make an enemy for yourself.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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