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Let Me Be Clear

The primary reason people are reluctant to speak assertively is that they are afraid. They are afraid of the emotional response of another; therefore, they attempt to manage outcomes. The hard truth is that when we try to manage the chaos of another, it creates a war within ourselves.

The management of our happiness is our own responsibility. That can be really frustrating to hear, especially if you are an excellent caretaker and have an innate sense to read what people need and attend to them without them having to ask. This is an excellent trait to have with young children as they fully rely on us as caretakers to make sure their needs are met. In fact, we cannot even regulate our own emotions at all until we are 6 months old!

This caretaking adaptation can be problematic, as it often has an origin of codependency. The deep need to people please is a trauma response and was learned in an environment to attain some illusion of control in a powerless situation. For example, if a caregiver were erratic, a child would learn to assess the situation in an environment and do what they could to avoid causing further frustration or irritation for the caregiver, thus “walking on eggshells.”

As a child we cannot remove ourselves from a situation because we need our caregivers. We cannot survive without them. Therefore, we avoid saying or doing things that may create a negative reaction in others as adults. We learned to do this somewhere in our childhood to survive our environment when we had no control over the moods in the grownups around us.

As adults we must communicate our feelings, needs, desires, and set boundaries for what is ok and not ok with us. It is not mature to expect people to just know. We must be direct, brave and speak up, even if the truth causes someone to feel angry or upset. It is their responsibility to tend to their emotional experience, not yours.

Some people think that this makes us inconsiderate. Directness does not need to be devoid of compassion. We can be clear and kind at the same time. In fact, it is much more kind to be clear than make assumptions and hope that others will just know what we feel, think, and need.

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