The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness – Self Improvement Book Review

One of my goals is being able to be assertive in a calm, nonjudgmental and caring way when confronted with either conflict or holding my boundaries.  Currently, I tend to avoid conflict because it typically does not come across in a positive way–it’s more of a defensive tone.

The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness written by Sherrie M. Vavrichek had a subtitle of How to Express Your Needs & Deal with Conflict While Keeping a Kind Heart.  Sounded like a perfect fit; and it was.  Below you will find my takeaways from the book as well as a link to purchase on Amazon.  I highly recommend this book if you struggle with confrontation and boundary setting.

  • Gratitude:  When you express your gratitude to others on a frequent basis, or while having the conflict discussion with the other person, you will speak more from your heart.  Also remember everyone has flaws, including me, and do not assume others intentions are negative.
  • Equanimity:  There are two types of “arrows” – Emotional (anger, frustration, sadness, etc.) and Suffering (overreaction, assumptions, judgmental reactions, etc.).  Equanimity doesn’t mean you let people walk over you, but that you pause and think before you react. Make sure to examine all aspects of the conflict in a balanced way (journaling really helps me) and view the other person based on their positive experiences with you (don’t assume their intention is to harm you).
  • Courage:  Find the courage to respond to anger and fear in a constructive way and use it to energize you to find a solution.  The mind will overestimate the level of threat and makes illogical assumptions.  You can retrain your brain to better handle emotions which will help with becoming overwhelmed with every situation.
  • Principals of Compassionate Assertiveness:  Use these four principles to guide you through conflict.
    • Actions are the result of complex causes and conditions:  Consider the cause and consequences that led to the conflict and if you need to be aware the issue is internal to you. 
    • Actions have consequences:  Consider the consequences to various actions you can take.  Questions to also ask are:
    • Intentions matter:  Am I assuming the other person’s intentions?  Can I be wrong in assuming?  Is it okay if it doesn’t go my way?
    • Follow the middle path:  Is it possible no one is wrong or right–was it circumstantial?  Can I remember my common bond with the person, and instead of withdrawing or resenting, approach the person in a friendly, respectful and confident way?
  • Forgiveness:  “…as long as hatred and bitterness reside within you, you are increasing your own suffering.”  Heal the pain; do not ignore it.  We all make mistakes; asking for forgiveness lets go of your pride.  And remember not to let someone’s problem/mistake ruin your day.
  • Calm Your body and Mind:  Manage your thoughts and emotions during difficult times.  Make sure to acknowledge the feelings and have compassion for both you and the other person.  The author has the following mantra meditation which I will put to use:  “May I/others be free of suffering and the causes of suffering; May I/others enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness.  May I/others be safe from inner and outer harm.  May I be at peace.
  • Communicating with Care:  In private, share what you observed or ask a question in a neutral way (non-judgmental) and be specific and avoid coming across as accusatory. 
    • Engage in Dialogue:  Solicitate the person’s perspective, assume they have good intentions, understate vs overstate the problem and be sensitive to their feelings.
    • Communicate your needs/wants then pause to allow them to respond.
    • Making reasonable requests:  Listen carefully, ask clarifying questions and if still unresolved, ask how they believe the issue can be solved.
    • If the problem is you, and after assess their feelings you agree, acknowledge the problem and apologize.  Make sure to understand if there is a request of you and figure out where to go from there.

Image from

The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness

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