Is your view of the world binary?

“My boss says I’ve got to be more assertive but when I do my team don’t respond well”

“I never say no because last time I did I lost my job”

“You should never show you’re angry because people don’t like it when you loose it”

Never be nice to people otherwise they’ll take advantage of you”

These statements, and others like them have all been said to me in my coaching sessions in the past 10 days. Clients seem to see the world in this binary fashion which says “if this, then that” They seem to have an either/or approach to how they are in the world. Most often it happens with people who have a poor experience of being the very thing they are not…. And when they try to do it they go to an extreme.

The person who is trying to be assertive comes over as autocratic and dictatorial, the person who never says no is terrified of displeasing anyone, the person who never gets angry has only seen people ranting and shouting and the person who is never nice doesn’t know how to do reasonable.

There is so much more gray in the world, not black and white. By realizing that our personal growth is often in the grey, not at the outer extremes we can learn a whole new way of being. I can be firm but fair, I can be displeased but not furious, I can say no without causing offence and I can be nice without being a walk over.

To get it right we must ask ourselves;

Is this either/or?

Is there a middle way that honours my needs and the needs of the others?

Assuming there is a sliding scale of response, what options do I have?

When we do this there are many more behavioural options and responses open to us rather than the binary perspective we started with.