“I’ve had a hell of a day. I’m so mad I could spit nails,” said my Long Lost Cousin.
“Calm down and tell me what happened.”
“I was standing in a long line at the supermart checkout. When some clown butts in front of me with a full trolley!”
“What did you do?”
“I yelled, “Who the hell do you think you are? Get to the back of the line.”
“What happened then?”
“He just put his middle finger up and smiled.”
The other people in the line were getting fidgety.
“Manager! Manager!” My cousin screamed.
The manager came running!
“This bozo line-jumped, and he won’t move to the back of the line.”
“Please sir, go to the back,” said the manager, pleading with the bozo.
“No, I’m staying right here. This guy can’t order me around,” the bozo said, defiantly.
“Then I pushed him out of line and took his trolley to the back of the line.
Then he pushed me from behind. We were pushing each other back and forth. Before I knew what was happening, the police were there calming everyone down. It took me two hours to get out of the store with my groceries. Can you believe it?”
“You could have handled it better,” I said, calmly.
“Well, you are still visibly upset and it has made your day miserable. This is the outcome of your aggressive behavior in handling that difficult situation.”
“What would you rather me say? “Please sir, will you be so kind as to move to the back of the line. That’s being a wimp.”
“Do you know what being assertive means?”
“Please tell me, cousin dear, I’m all ears.”
“Well, it doesn’t mean being sarcastic, I’ll tell you that!”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.”
“Being assertive involves talk focused on the solving of problems and preserving the dignity of everyone in the difficult situation.”
“How do you do that in the line-jumping situation?”
“Well, you could have said:
“I’ve been in this line for a while, waiting, and you going in front of me has upset me, would you please go to the end of the line,” you see, no swearing, no name calling, and no pushing.”
My cousin looked at me quizzically.
“Now, to communicate this, you have to have a firm tone of voice, eye contact, and a confident stance, no slouching!”
“So you think saying that will make him move to the back of the line?”
“Well, at least you are not arguing with him in a loud voice.”
My cousin shook his head.
“Now, you might get a very angry response, or be ignored, and the line-jumper might stay put. But, on the other hand, you might get an apology and he might move back.”
“That would be great if he went to the back.”
“Yes, and you would feel good for tackling the situation in a calm, cool way, and not spoil your day.”
“Well cousin, thanks for the lesson in assertiveness.”
“You’re welcome. Hey, where are you going?”
“Home. My wife said she’s going to let me do something I have always dreamed of doing. She will let me win an argument without being ASSERTIVE!”