Friday, July 31, 2020

The Assertive Empathy Game Plan for Conversations

This is a part of a larger discussion on the difference between authentic mindsets (empathy and assertiveness) and triggered, defensive mindsets (aggression, passivity, avoidance).

I developed the following system to guide me through conversations. A road map for trying to be in an authentic mindset myself. And what to do if another person is being defensive toward me.

The Assertive Empathy Game Plan for Conversations

Entering into a conversation....

1) Be assertive. Self-responsibility to be introspective, figure out core needs, and ask, not demand, ask for them.
(wants v. needs is another topic not net covered in this essay).

2) If anything other than empathy/assertive is what comes back your way, put the empathy shield up. If the other person is in a defensive state, know that your ask will not be authentically acknowledged until the defensive is resolved.

3) If you still want the need or care about the other, want to help, and authentically have energy, engage with the defensiveness. Offer an unyielding combination of empathy (I wonder if you're having a hard day? How are you doing? Would you like to talk? I won't be mad if you talk.)

If you get vulnerability, more empathy of reassurance and listening. If able, continue with your own assertiveness, which now may include thanks for the effort you just put in to not foster lingering resentment. Which, if they get defensive about that ask, it's back to #2

4) If a person is relieved of pain and feeling satiated in other needs, they will almost always respond with a level of empathy toward respectful asks from another. They may assertively say no, and even then in a wise mind will express empathetic understanding of why a no can be painful.

5) What happens if assertiveness didn't get the empathy + assertive reply? It was defensive and you started down #2 and #3 and you're getting worn out? Listen to self need, Have self empathy. And get out. Altruism breeds resentment. There is a level of self-sacrifice that is authentic - a strong enough need of care for another that you'll put in the hard word of trying to emotionally heal them. I will sometimes do this and seek empathy from a less hurting person about how hard that work was. Work can be hard, still worth it, and validation from others seems so important. The person in pain won't see or appreciate your work, not at first. Having someone else see it is so rewarding. Self-reward for hard work is never enough. Humans need the validation of others.

6) If it's getting to be too much, just get out. Even if you deeply care, at a point of self-sacrifice you'll exhaust yourself so much that you'll too tired to take care of self at all. Have respect for self need to recharge. Get out, take a break. Leave the pained person in pain and know that society did this to them, not you. And society could pick up more of the slack in helping heal them.

7) In powerless situations, retreat into self-defense. At a level of hostile defensiveness of others, at some point your own self need requires defending. You can't get out for some reason. You're stuck. Often in forced dynamics such a work, unfair social policy, ect. Get aggressive or passive to the point of self-safety. I never, ever "accept" that people/society is cruel. Defensiveness in pain in others. It's coming at me so hard that I need to defend it and I try to tolerate as best I can, try to damage as little as possible in response, and have empathy, yes empathy, for this person or situation causing me pain. I can see that the pain in other is ultimately some external force of nature or society that inflicted pain onto them. No-one is helping them with that in a hyper-individualized society and they were forced into defensiveness as their only recourse.

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  1. Really great piece. Hit home with: “Humans need the validation of others.” Thank you for writing.

  2. Really great piece. Hit home with: “Humans need the validation of others.” Thank you for writing.