These are volatile times. Depending on where you look, you’ll find vocal masses convinced we’re either heading for a reinvigorated future or that the apocalypse is nigh. We are leaving the EU, the world is enduring a refugee crisis, the health of the planet is continually diminishing and the Bake Off is moving to Channel 4.
There is such a noisy dispute between opposing social groups that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to bury your head in the sand.
But just like at other pivotal times in history, it’s essential to develop our opinions on the prevailing affairs, to find out how our beliefs apply to the world, and to determine what we’d like to see come into fruition. And doing so needn’t be attempted in isolation, responding to your news feed on the evening commute.
One of the great virtues of living in 2017 is that there is so much information available at our fingertips. Boundless social and political commentary, from mainstream rags to independent blogs, can be simply obtained online.
But again, the quantity of media and the breadth of division between left and right could prompt a banging headache and redirect you to Google images of sweet little red pandas instead.
Something that’s crucially helpful for developing our opinions is honest discussion. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tenacious political observer, devouring thousands of pages of journalistic analyses on a weekly basis, or indifferent to anything but the latest series of Strictly – discussing and sharing viewpoints with other people is highly valuable.
Here’s where an open, assertive manner is of immense benefit.
Being assertive doesn’t mean simply drilling your opinion into others. It’s about having the confidence to voice your thoughts and a willingness to respect and empathise with the ideas with others (even if their favourite Godfather film is the third one).
The widespread division in today’s society makes it imperative for us to expand our perspectives. Staying quiet and never voicing our concerns is likely to leave us feeling helpless. Meanwhile, it’s no use to just ignore or dismiss anyone who thinks differently to us.
Being assertive entails being prepared to have someone disagree with us. But just because we find Michael McIntyre’s comedy a bit plain, it doesn’t mean others are wrong to adore him. Rather, we need to allow room for a whole range of varying opinions – in doing so, we’ll feel more confident speaking our minds.
With an assertive and considerate mindset you can engage in constructive conversations with loved ones and neighbours, with work mates and the eccentric women at the local Oxfam. This allows for curious recommendations and unexpected revelations, which will not only make you feel like you’re getting your voice heard, but give you a sense of community.
Four tips for applying assertiveness in your daily life:
- Think about what causes you to feel reserved or embarrassed. Is it a fear of being wrong or upsetting people? Try to speak up and if conflict should arise, be patient and receptive to other peoples’ viewpoints.
- If you are uncertain about something – a moral issue, a change in the workplace – ask questions.
- Try to bring up complex topics in a casual, non-dogmatic way. See how your views might be influenced or changed by the musings of others.
- Recognise the significance of your individual contribution. We’re all different, and society is stronger when it accommodates our differences.