Melanie Sivley Counseling
A day in the life of 'Sally'
A day in the life of 'Sally'
(Please note, Sally and everyone else are totally made up. They're not based on anyone at all, not even a little bit!)
Last week I talked about four ways to communicate. Assertive, passive, passive-aggressive & aggressive. This week, I am going to tell the story of Sally. Sally will manage to be passive, passive-aggressive & aggressive all in one very long day. As you read along, try and identify how she is communicating & try and imagine how she could communicate in an assertive way instead.
Sally finds herself waking up an hour early so she can pick up a co-worker and give her a ride to work. Sally rushes through her morning and pulls up in front of Jane's house just in time. Jane finally comes to the car 15 minutes late. Sally is upset because she knows they will be late to work. “Sorry I'm late.” Jane says as she sips her coffee. “No problem!” Sally says through gritted teeth. “I missed breakfast so I could be here on time, but hey, I need to lose weight anyway.” Sally wishes Jane had thought to bring her some coffee too, it's the least Jane could do to say thanks.
Later that day, Sally is finally heading out of the office to grab a quick lunch. She's starving and pressed for time because her boss asked her to finish a presentation by the end of the day. Sally is already swamped with work, but agreed to finish the presentation. “No problem!” Sally tells her boss. Her stomach starts to hurt just thinking about all the work that she has sitting on her desk.
As she heads for the door, several of her co-workers ask her to pick lunch up for them. “No problem.” Sally tells them. Her head starts throbbing as she quietly freaks out even more knowing how much farther behind this will put her.
Sally finally turns her computer off at around 7 pm. She's the last one at the office, but at least the presentation is finished. She's worried about the rest of the work she has left on her desk that she wasn't able to get to. Her phone rings as she's walking to her car. It's her husband, asking her when she was coming home. “I'm just getting to my car now.” Sally tells him. “Can you do some quick grocery shopping? I'll text you a list." “No problem.” Sally says with a loud sigh. “I only have 24 hours in a day, but hey, sleep is overrated!” Sally hangs up before Jack has a chance to reply and heads to the store.
Sally finally gets home. As Jack helps her unpack groceries, he says, “You forgot the toilet paper. Think you can grab some tomorrow on the way home?” Sally explodes on Jack. “Why don't you get it yourself! What is wrong with you? Why do I have to do everything around here. What's wrong with you!” Sally storms out of the kitchen before Jack has a chance to reply.
Poor Sally has had a REALLY bad day! Without doubt, people took advantage of her inability to set boundaries and say no, but can you see how Sally allowed people to treat her that way? Let's look at the many opportunities Sally had to be assertive.
“Sorry I'm late.” Jane says as she sips her coffee. “No problem!” Sally says through gritted teeth. “I missed breakfast so I could be here on time, but hey, I need to lose weight anyway.” Sally wishes Jane had thought to bring her some coffee too, it's the least Jane could do to say thanks.
Sally is being passive-aggressive here. Telling Jane she doesn't mind waiting, but than making the snippy remark about missing breakfast. How could Sally have been assertive with Jane? She could have said something like this.
“I'm happy to help you out by taking you to work, but I would appreciate it if you could be on time. I really dislike being late for work. That coffee smells great, by the way. I'd love it if you could bring me some too next time!”
“No problem!” Sally tells her boss.”
Sally is being passive here. She wants to please her boss (understandably), but already feels overwhelmed by the amount of work she has. What would assertive look like in this situation? Maybe something like this:
“I'd have to work late to get the presentation done. I'm happy to do that if you need me to. But I have a lot of other work that I won't be able to get to if I finish the presentation instead. How would you like me to priortize all of this?”
As she heads for the door, several of her co-workers ask her to pick lunch up for them. “No problem.” Sally tells them.
Sally is being passive here. Assertiveness might have looked something like this:
“Guys, I'd love to grab your lunches. But I really don't have time today. It looks like I'm going to be working late as it is.”
“Can you do some quick grocery shopping? I'll text you a list.” “No problem.” Sally says with a loud sigh. “I only have 24 hours in a day, but hey, sleep is overrated!”
Sally is being passive-aggressive with her husband. Assertiveness would have sounded something like this:
“Jack, it's late and I'm exhausted. I can't get groceries tonight. Maybe you can run out and get the basics while I'm on my way home? Or order some dinner for us tonight and have them deliver. I don't have the energy for anything else.”
Sally explodes on Jack. “Why don't you get it yourself! What is wrong with you? Why do I have to do everything around here. What's wrong with you!”
This is every common with people who struggle with being assertive. Time and again, my clients talk about putting themselves aside and taking care of everyone without saying a word. Finally, they've had enough and they explode on whoever is around. This is of course, aggression. Honestly, if Sally had been assertive throughout the day, she wouldn't have acted aggressive at this point.
Does any of Sallies story sound familiar? No worries, you are far from alone! In my next blog post, I'll discuss some handy tools to help you learn to be assertive.
See you next week!