Sunday, April 07, 2013

Girls Club: Assertiveness

This morning I attended the second meeting of Girls Club, a monthly get together. The quote on the splash page sums up the group best:
We are the Girls Club. We want to:

Foster positive relationships between girls.
Create a positive environment to meet, support and learn.
Share positive role models, skills, advice, tips, stories.

The topic of this meeting was 'assertiveness', with the group's founders Fox and Shannon giving structure to the discussion with handouts and thought prompts. From something as simple as "provide examples of assertiveness or lack of for your professional and personal lives" I came away with a brain full of knock-on thoughts. The meeting was slated for a single hour, went overtime and still didn't seem like nearly long enough.

From the group discussion I came away with these thoughts:

  • assertiveness seems to be founded upon knowing your boundaries and having the self-respect to enforce them.
  • 'respect' not necessarily being an abundance of self-love, esteem, value, but deciding you will not let something that upsets/distresses/bothers you go unchallenged.
  • perhaps 'challenge' is too strong a word; "unaddressed".
  • your peace of mind is worth defending.
  • most stated that what stopped them from asserting themselves was fear of potential conflict, and I had the impression that for many the two are linked, possibly even considered the same thing.
  • some work on separating the ideas of 'assertiveness' and 'conflict/confrontation' would go far in removing the Capital A of Assertiveness and so enable people to be less hesitant in stepping up.
  • is the fear of an immediate reaction of conflict enough? Do we not trust the other party to be reasonable? (Fear will find demons where we know there are none.)
  • we are all more comfortable with asserting ourselves in a professional environment, where there are set frameworks regarding expectations, responsibilities, etc.
  • the personal, where we are more invested by choice, conflates the act of assertion and introduces complexities and love.
  • caring will always make things harder.
  • with strangers, assertion and the chance of being perceived to be bitchy/bossy/rude/humourless it not so much an issue, as there is no emotional or personal investment, thus there is less hesitation in calling out bigotry.
  • there is a difference between wanting to be what we think of as 'assertive' - the culturally germinated idea propagated largely in fictional narratives - versus recognising what actions are actually best for us as an individual.
  • for example, feeling that you should jump on conflict and confront it immediately and head on, like a bull to a red cape, instead of taking a quieter approach such as withdrawing and addressing the issue from a distance.
  • this second approach being at first viewed as cowardly, perhaps because it is simply not overt.
  • (this bleeds into the idea of bias, and the ideas and values we have adopted from our environments, cultures and interactions without realising we are acting not necessarily in our best interests.)
These are ideas that I believe apply to both genders, but were especially true of this group of women eating quesadillas in the sun on a Sunday morning, all of whom appeared, to me, to be mature, sophisticated, intelligent and full of interesting things to say, ie, not people I would assume have issues asserting themselves in either a professional or personal setting.

It was also just a wonderful experience. This round table discussion on a terribly interesting topic in which everyone spoke and listened, in which we all truly listened to what others had to say, no one spoke over anyone else, all was respected, valued and considered. It was such an invigorating environment that the act of speaking your thoughts felt like a natural thing to do, not something that required an effort for you to present yourself, nor requiring any effort to be heard.

This weekend has actually been full of really thorough meaty conversations. I feel unexpectedly invigorated. Communication isn't always a channel. Most of the time, between two people, it's a window, and that window can get grotty, rain-smeared and paint-smeared and covered in fingerprints and noseprints and lipstick kisses. Every now and then that window needs cleaning. Love probably blurred the view, and love will see it clear again.


  1. Sounds absolutely brilliant and fabulous!

    Lovely run down, the knock-on thoughts are always the insightful ones.

    I would love to attend the next one. After hearing you talk about it with such alacrity this afternoon, and now reading more on the topic(s) discussed.. I'd be so excited to take part, even if it's just to listen.

  2. You are so coming. I force you.

  3. This sounds fabulous! I could certainly do with some more assertiveness, it does not come naturally that's for sure.