Be Kind, But Assertive

As a child, I had a reputation for always saying yes, which sometimes led to people taking advantage of me. In Grade 2, a third grader asked to borrow my basketball during the last week of school. On the last day of school, I saw him shooting hoops with my ball and when I asked for it back, he told me that he’ll return it to me later. I didn’t refuse, and of course, I never got my ball back.

I was the nice kid, I was a people pleaser, but I was a pushover. I didn’t like to be rude or disappoint other people. And while I believe kindness is important, there are moments when taking a stand is necessary, and being kind is a cop-out that leads to regret down the road.

As I got older, I learned that kindness and assertiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. When taking a stand, I won’t aggressively shout, Gordon Ramsay style, but my approach is more calm and communicative. I prefer to tell the person directly and share how that makes me feel. Being assertive is also a form of self-respect. If you can’t stand up for yourself, how can I stand up for other or for what I believe in?

Choosing kindness in certain situations may bring immediate relief, but problems arise in the long term. On the other hand, being assertive and honest may lead to initial friction, but garners long-term respect.

March 28, 2024

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