It is important to combine assertiveness with compassion in managing relationhship issues
It is common for all of us to think in a dichotomous term that either we should be assertive and focus on setting our boundaries with others or we should be compassionate of the sufferings of others and be more accommodating. Is it possible for us to be both compassionate and assertive? A client of mine invited her close friend to her newly bought flat as her friend’s request. She used to think this close friend is very happy for her for moving into her new flat. On the day of the visit, she was shocked that when her close friend entered into her apartment, she kept taking photos of her home. My client wanted to stop her and show her anger towards her close friend’s invasion of her privacy. Due to their close relationship, my client chose to be accepting and did not confront her close friend. Later, my client found out that this close friend shared those photos to another close friend and they gossiped about her. This made my client very disappointed at her close friend and felt betrayed by her. This client was facing a dilemma of whether to discuss this with her close friend or to let this fade away and start distancing from her. If you were her, how would you choose?
If we want to stay close to our good friends, it is important for us to be frank and assertive to them. It is because we have the rights to assert our needs and to set boundaries with them. To be assertive, we need to have good emotional management in the first place. In fact, it is the right thing to be assertive to confront her close friend for my client as it is unacceptable for her to take photos without asking for her permission. With planning, logic, and values, we could decide how to convey the messages if someone intrude our boundaries. For instance, my client can talk to her close friend about her invasion of privacy and express her disappointment. She can turn to her inner guidance of being true to herself no matter whether her close friend accept or not. It is only when we focus on our inner core values and do what we think is beneficial to ourselves and the relationship, we can have the inner peace and equanimity.
What if the close friend denied and minimized what she had done without really listening to my client’s assertion? As all of us have our shadow parts, we tended to deny others’ confrontation on us and be defensive during others’ assertion. This is why we need to also cultivate compassion together with our assertiveness in interpersonal relationships. We need to be compassionate to others as well as ourselves. For my client, she need to be compassionate to herself when her close friend denied and minimized her acts. It is inevitable that my client would feel angry and hurt for her close friend’s betrayal. My client need to take good care of herself and be able to express her emotions through talking to other close ones or engaging in expressive arts. She could decide whether to continue this close relationshi with this close friend or start to detach from her. At the same time, my client could also be compassionate to her close friend that it could be her own sense of inadequacy that caused jealousy on her. This could explain why she kept betraying my client in the relationship throughout the years. With compassion, we could be more at peace in view of all the factors and complications in our relationships with others.
With asseriveness and compassion, we can have peace in us in the face of relationship issues. There is no right or wrong answers or actions. It is a matter of being flexible and accepting. We need to accept that we cannot control our path with our significant others given all the unpredictable factors and variables. The most important thing is to take good care of ourselves and stand for our own inner core values. It is still hopeful that we can have genuine relationships that are fulfilling and meaningful.