People who overuse compliance as a communication strategy are often very well liked. They appear relaxed, calm, friendly and kind and they can frequently progress quite well in their careers because of these attributes.
They are the sort of people who are often described as ‘my rock’ because they don’t make waves or contradict, and their apparent calmness soothes others who may be more agitated when dealing with the world.
But this is the problem: it is other people who are dealing with the world. Compliant people are primarily withdrawing from the world, usually because of their ‘fear of conflict’ with others should they come forward to honestly interact and say what they ‘really’ think.
The difficulty for compliant people is that to be able to function (while being withdrawn) requires finding other people who are willing to go forth and do your bidding; engaging with the wider world on your behalf.
To do this, compliant people most commonly partner in their intimate relationships with people who overuse aggression as a communication strategy and then hope that the aggressive person will negotiate, agitate and protect their interests.
Of course, this is a risky strategy at best and downright dangerous at worst – since it kind of relies on a benevolent dictator. Yet we all know that dictators can be terrifying (see image above).
While compliant people have been busy withdrawing and disappearing under the radar, they have never learned to calmly argue and persuade others of their views. Instead at times of potential conflict compliant people tend to go quiet and passively resist, blocking any undesired outcomes.
This frustrates others (who may then become angry and frightening) and stops compliant people from ever really defining and truly ‘knowing’ themselves, as it is mainly through logical argument that we define what we stand for or what we stand against.
In contrast to either compliance or aggression, people using assertion as their main communication strategy would know that it is never too late to learn to argue! They would come forward in a friendly manner (and not withdraw) while calmly and open-mindedly discussing issues of conflict with others.
This provides vital feedback to themselves and others in defining exactly what values and views matter. At the same time, it sets early limits on other people’s behaviour (by indicating they are not a pushover), while still maintaining a friendly and permeable basis for interaction.
Most importantly, assertion puts an end to needing a dictator (even a benevolent one!) and allows direct, unfettered access to the world that is calm, logical and empowering.