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Assertive is the new nice

Assertive is the new nice - Personal Online Therapy - The Best Online Psychologist Platform

By Sarah Kopinsky – These uncertain health times have changed most of our somewhat familiar relationship landscapes and shifted our social paradigms. For some this has been the time to become closer and spend far more quality time with family. For others, however, the pressure has been quite intense, and it shows most in the ways in which we relate in all roles in our lives.

I am sure that if you are reading this, none of this comes as a great surprise to you. Relationships are far from easy. Two people -who fall in love- come together, connect two lives, many loves and their dreams and insecurities into one common place. A place which houses many emotions, much baggage, fun, love, memories, adventures, fights and everything that comes with inter-being.

As we go into these times, this dimensional shift can quietly slip in and stay over in the some one of those unused rooms. You know this room as the place where no one really sleeps and is mostly used to store the things that do not really go with the rest of the house. The room we shut because it brings up hard, painful, unprocessed stuff and that makes us feel less great about who we truly are.

And, here we are…finding ourselves in conflict with the people we love or spend most (virtual) time with.

All those unexamined and dark parts of us; the childhood fears and wounds, attachment issues, unresolved pain and insecurities, the insecurities around many people’s health, family and careers and all those social pressures can come with a price for some. Instead of telling you what you already know about relationships; that they are not easy et cetera. I will take a shortcut on this one and explain why it is good if this happens, and you feel this way, and why it matters to clean this room out for good.

The big “being nice myth” does nothing for us in confrontations

To tackle it before it runs away with us, we need to first learn the difference between shaping each other and going into and controlling each other’s personal space. The place where we no longer feel separate individuals and forget to allow each other space and handling things as they feel is best for them.

Shaping (healthy)

Partners shape each other all the time through though love and constructive feedback. It is great! This allows us to grow and develop into more and more of our own full potential and experience great things. Shaping is something we all use to gradually adapt new behaviour based on input- which is done in a positive way- by our partner to remain socially accepted and celebrated.  When we do this well, we tend to reward each other for taking a step forward and from then we congratulate each other that we keep evolving and on making bigger and bigger steps. It is one of the best things about interconnections because this kind of confrontations help us work on our self-love, personal development, careers, qualities, partnerships, problems and help us grow. They are also excellent for the foundation for the relationship because it prepares us for its constant evolutionary state and its uncertainties.

Projecting / going into each other’s space/ that extremely annoying know it all thing we do (not so healthy)

These all check in at the dysfunctional coping mechanism register (click below for the list). These are those unconscious strong dark parts of ourselves we see in others because we are frustrated about them and are not ready to deal with ourselves. We use them to project our difficult and unresolved feelings on others, rather than attributing them to ourselves. We reject them on our environment and start shame dumping. Some researchers agreed that it could be a first indication of introjection (where we lose our sense of self). We all have needs, expectations and fears and the internalize messages of badness, incompleteness, and mostly, unfinished childhood messes, can become adopted into our dysfunctional and negative ideas about who we are, what we look or should look like, and all other stories we tell ourselves. The thing is, that when we find no place to dump them, we are left with the possible thought that they truly don’t align with who we genuinely are (I you’d like to learn more about this one check out the narrative therapy post). When we do allow for people to do so, it often is because we ourselves, are more uncentered. 

Bullying (not so healthy as well)

Yes, the ultimate low blow! Some people can become 4-year-old children again and take out our own badness, anger, frustrations, fears and insecurities out on each other instead of where it belongs. In a pandemic, where this really belongs, might be a hard location to pinpoint… but on each other sure is not the place.

This source of suffering is not new. But the bullied is not the only one at fault. You see, instead of teaching assertiveness we learn to cope, to be nice, to smile, to ignore… We learn to reflect the suffering and unworthiness we receive on ourselves and others. This message burdens us deeply and we look to ridden ourselves of it. We want to feel good again and use others for this. We desire most to release it from our own psychological states by transferring it. What bullied people do wrong is to absorb it rather than assertively putting people in their place. Becoming small and shrinking away or being strongly defensive do not help. What really tend to help suffering people get back to themselves, and into their own hearts, is being assertive. We are more ready to take this into ourselves, and our personal place and bubble when we feel that we, again, are activating previously received messages of our own incompleteness. Messages we have already internalized before about us “not being enough”, but when we hold our sacred space “the gift” is returned to where it belongs.

When in situations like these, we can choose to finally learn how to replace our own ideas of badness with strong affirming messages and not tolerate other problems into our space, we stop being victims. We need to learn to become the wrong partner for this so that the sufferer retreats.

Self-affirmation, innate self-worth, goodness, self-love and confidence all become incredibly important in partnering and in (re)parenting ourselves in times of great stress. These behaviours are not restricted to partnering and can occur between business partners, in families, and wherever humans interconnect.

“Not good enough!” Is often the shared message both parties have internalized. It often helps to see that the situation is terrible, not per definition entire relationships or ourselves.

The New Nice

As Dr. Brown (2017) brilliantly described:

“I do not negotiate who I am with you because then… I may fit in for you, but I do not belong to myself. And that is a betrayal I am no longer willing to do anymore”.

Dr. Brown (2017)

Being nice or using any of the other coping mechanisms tends to not really work in painful confrontations. We do not change it, it makes us forget to (re)claim our autonomy and power, and to set boundaries. It is predictable that we will go into each other’s sacred personal space- a great deal. We start to think about “fixing” others annoying habits, looks, approaches, business styles… The boundaries in pandemics between one another become very blurred and can often be found to intersect, where they once were far clearer. There was a better idea of where one’s life intersected as they left the house to work, for hobbies, to meet, to be.

Great stress in our work, social and everyday environments makes us forget that some parts of our identities will and can never be negotiated. In good or bad, we are still very much our own individuals with our own autonomy and need to belong and keep things to ourselves. It can occur that we now must transform behaviours and coping mechanisms which were designed to hurt.

Shared physical space is often confused with psychological and personal space. When we allow partners to enter our bubble too much, adopt the other’s emotions, (hurtful) comments and let their mess in, we do not better or help the situation. Setting boundaries again avoids the classical “doormat” role. This way we remember and protect the idea that we are sexiest and most attractive when we are free.

Assertiveness, confidence, not being too nice, self-love, evolving, staying in our own magic, being present, speaking back, continuing our personal development, having our own plans, having fun, having an amazing mindset, knowing what is and isn’t our problem, drawing lines and setting healthy boundaries, taking amazing care of our bodies, minds and souls, and keeping ourselves together is incredibly attractive!

Is it easy? NO!!!

We need social support by nature

Taylor & Gonzaga (2006) explained that we are part of the primate species. We have a very deep adoption and need for group survival and therefor greatly invest and depend on social bonds. This is because they offer most survival and reproductive solutions. We greatly benefit and need social support by nature. We inspire each other in how emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy we are. We put incredible emphasize on how socially high functioning we are. We are, furthermore, so influenced by our first relationship with our caregivers that its messages and lessons influence most of our own biology. This precious and important information, we receive during this time, is hardwired in us because it is designed for our survival.

We have many shapers in life, but we put most meaning on the messages (especially in threatening times) on these 3:  

  1. Our parent-child bonds
  2.  People we love across our lifespan
  3.  Messages from the immediate environment (mostly our adult relationship partners)

These can all deeply affect us by design because they were stored in our brains and are recognized and felt to protect us.

The ultimate fear

We can now come to see how kindness was thought to keep the peace and keep away the ultimate fear: REJECTION by our own groups. We could, in prehistoric times, not afford rejection from those on whom we depended to survive the most. When children’s parental bonds were damaged and insecure, and messages were unclear about how loved they are, they were found more likely to become less supportive partners in high stress situations. Their partners’ needs were, in these cases, often overlooked and their own emotions deregulate further, while physical stress and anxiety symptoms, often increased for them. The combination of stress at work, severe environmental and bad lifestyle chances can cause partners to spill over their suffering onto partners. 

When we try to cope with silence or by being nice, we suppress our own needs and emotions and react by just using another flawed coping mechanism as a response.

As we evolve and are faced with an incredible and unknown level of uncertainty, we could find it time to critically re-evaluate our coping strategies and decide if these allow for our autonomic arousal or for a complete autonomic invasion. We should use this very valuable information and the messages we now receive about our partners and ourselves, during these times, to inspire us to take structured and highly effective action and perhaps even completely new roads.  It is never aggression that aids success in these times. It in fact are the high socio-emotional skills, mostly assertiveness, which generates controlled responses and helps us win at life.

It is now time to teach assertiveness, not being kind or nice, because the situation calls for it.

Not my circus, not my monkeys

We must separate ourselves from dogmatic thinking and remember that our main shared goal is to give life to our own personal development and evolution. This can be a great time to finally take out the baggage of our homes and learn to say: “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. To have real conversations about what works and does not. To effectively communicate, compromise and solve as much as you can. We all instinctively know and feel what is done from love and is great for our own transformation as well as our interbeing. We know that talking about things that bother us helps us better ourselves and moves us forward. We must, however, be careful not to confuse the situation with the person or the entire relationship. It is best to draw own lines and refuse to take responsibility for other people’s emotions and internal turmoil’s, but one must also be open to be shaped if it is in place. This allows for a better picture of the true and deeper causes so they can be addressed. To reduce shared stress, dysfunctional coping mechanisms, and bring couples back to their hearts and own centres while they feel safe, connected, seen, heard and very desired, being nice must be replaced with assertive thinking.

If you would like to learn a bit more about feeling rejected and how to respond during conflict or confrontation, so you can make room for those real conversations, have a look below:

If You Need Someone To Talk To

Given the current situation with a global pandemic affecting us all, it is normal for feelings like anxiety, stress and worry to arise. Speaking to an online therapist at a time like this can help manage these emotions.

At Personal Online Therapy ( we specialize in individual online counseling, therapy & coaching. After a brief consultation we will match you with one of our online licensed psychologists based on your specific needs and preference. The sessions will be scheduled based on your preference (24/7) through a secure video call.

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    Brown, B. (2017). Braving the wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone. New York: Random House.

    Changing Minds. (z.d.). Coping Mechanisms. Retrieved May 23rd, 2020, from

    CuttingEdgeConscious. (2013, 6 november). Eckhart Tolle: Bullying as Conditioned Behavior and Mindfulness as a Conscious Response. Retrieved May 23rd, 2020, from

    Kopinsky, S. (2020, 26 april). Narrative Therapy – 4 Keys to Become Much Better Story Tellers and Why. Retrieved May 23rd, 2020, from

    Mindvalley. (2016, 8 juli). 5 Tips To Help You Deal With Rejection | Marisa Peer. Geraadpleegd op 24 mei 2020, van Taylor, S., & Gonzaga, G. (2006). Evolution, relationships, and health: The social shaping hypothesis. Evolution and social psychology, 211-236.

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