How to be Assertive and Tolerant


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by Jayaram V

You would have seen many people in your life who want to have their say or way in what they want or how they want, but flare up and throw temper tantrums if you offend them or oppose them. It is fine to live your life according to your values and beliefs and aim for your goals and dreams using your best judgment. However, problems arise when people do not recognize other people's right to do the same.

Some cultures do not teach this. Children in such communities grow up being either aggressive or submissive. They are driven by either anger or fear, but seldom by reason. Aggressive people want to silence their opposition. They do not want to listen or appreciate any viewpoint which they oppose or dispute. Such people are a good fit for a feudal or totalitarian system, but will have problems adjusting to a democratic system where the rule of law prevails and where everyone is treated equally.

Human aggression shows up in many ways. Some times people channel it as national pride, racial superiority or religious bigotry. The same people who are aggressive tend to become timid and fearful when they feel helpless or perceive threat to their own safety.

If you notice the trend today, you see a lot of people growing up with these values. Today we live in a very divided society. If you have a doubt, please scan blogs, the comments' sections, twitter posts and face book messages. There is a lot of intolerance among the educated people as well as the semi-literate. They do not want to weigh opinions or examine an issue with an open mind. They want you to either put up or shut up.

If you want to learn and grow intellectually and keep an open mind, you have to recognize other people's right to have their own opinion, whether you agree with them or not. You will have this attitude only when you have the following.

1. You must value yourself and others equally.

2. Recognize and respect other people's right to express their opinion.

3. Do not depend upon other people's approval to feel good.

4. Do not patronize others nor let others patronize you.

5. Act according to the situation not according to your fixed notions.

6. Pay attention to others rather than being lost in your own thoughts.

7. Be willing to negotiate and compromise when necessary rather than posturing and threatening.

8. Avoid talking down, aggression, impatience or hostility in your behavior and communication.

9. Learn to say no, but let others know why you did it.

10. Be assertive, rather than aggressive, in your dealings with others.

I often come across people who are intolerant of what others say or write. What surprises me most is that they do it in the name of religion or spirituality. It is true that some decorum and decency are expected in society for good order, peace and preservation of its values and morals. However, it is important to remember that the world will continue and run its course for a long time, while we may live here for a short time and die. We can always speak about the idealism and perfection we want to see being manifested in society, but recognize at the same time other's right to do so.

You cannot practice true assertiveness or tolerance unless you have a basic respect for other people and recognize their right to freedom and be themselves. Unless it is deeply ingrained in your consciousness and value system, you cannot manifest it truly in your attitude towards others. The true test of whether you have these values is to see how you deal with people who are weaker or less privileged than you in power, wealth or position.

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