Assertive indifference: what it is and how it applies to conflicts
Jan 14, 2022
Assertive indifference is a term that, although apparently contradictory, is really one of the best strategies we can use to overcome relational conflicts.
Originally applied to the realm of dating relationships, the idea behind it is applicable to absolutely any environment in which there is a social interaction, where one subject tries to provoke another by saying or doing something offensive.
Assertive indifference is a behavior that voluntarily blocks any type of external reaction to an unpleasant stimulus., pretending not to affect us. Let's see in a little more detail what it consists of.
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What is assertive indifference?
Surely you know what indifference is and, probably, you also know what assertiveness. Indifference is the state of mind in which a person does not feel inclination or rejection towards another subject; and assertiveness, a very popular term in psychology, is the ability to be able to speak one's mind without being aggressive
One might ask how such a concept can exist. If assertiveness is the ability to say what we think, make claims or defend our rights without reaching violence physical or verbal, how is it possible that there is such a thing as assertive indifference? The truth is that you can indeed be assertively indifferent and, in fact, it is very effective. Assertive indifference is a very useful tool when we want to avoid conflicts with other people or being manipulated. It is about voluntarily blocking any external reaction to a stimulus of social origin.
Said more directly: it is to avoid entering the rag. It is the ancient strategy of not flinching when someone tries to provoke us. It is to apply the maxim of "to foolish words, deaf ears". And not only words, but also offensive gestures or any action that is directed at us with the purpose of making us react irritated. Being assertively indifferent is not reacting and staying the same as we were in an annoying or uncomfortable situation.
So that we understand it better, let's see it with a mundane example. Let's imagine that a classmate gave us a nickname, something that bothers us a lot. In this particular situation, responding with assertive indifference would mean not flinching when that person addresses us with that nickname. By behaving like this we are telling him that we don't care what he calls us. This way we will not create a conflict and, probably, with the passage of time that partner will stop doing it.
Naturally, it is pretend. It is simulated behavior, behaving in a way that deep down we do not feel. If someone says something ugly to us, everyone's natural response is to respond and become defensive, but that would be like adding fuel to the fire. On the other hand, by not responding when someone tells us or does something that bothers us, we make the sender of that behavior understand that what he is doing does not affect us at all. The idea is not to show the other person what we feel.
Thus, what we seek with this indifference is not showing our real emotions to someone who tries to provoke us. This way he will not know our weaknesses and he will not be able to take advantage of it by manipulating us. It also happens that, by applying this tool, by not reacting to what is unpleasant that they say or do to us, a conflict that will go further will be avoided. This tool is capable of eliminating any malicious behavior towards us, it only requires a little strength, patience and letting time pass.
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Assertive indifference within the couple
This kind of indifference It can be used for absolutely any relational area, being one in which the couple demonstrates the most utility.. Couple relationships are often rose gardens, but other times they also become battlefields. Within the couple, power play dynamics can occur and one of its members wants to test how much influence they are capable of having over the other. They do it men and women, in heterosexual relationships and also in homosexuals.
One of the moments in which this is most evident is when what is colloquially called "scoring" occurs. This is when one partner wants to test how much influence she has over the other, especially early in the relationship. It also happens when the couple ends and, without much conviction, one of the two ex-members wants to measure her chances of resuming the relationship.
As we can see, it is a pulse of forces. To prevent this from going further, assertive indifference is crucial, a tool that in this context would prevent us from some conflicts during the relationship, in addition to avoid certain manipulations and emotional blackmail when the relationship has ended.
Using assertive indifference can serve to prevent some conflicts during the relationship, or to avoid certain manipulations, when the relationship has already ended. Pretending that you don't feel anything, despite not being true, is a good tactic to guard against a growing escalation of psychological manipulation.
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A tool to protect ourselves from conflict
As we have commented, assertive indifference is applicable to many social spheres. This tool is applicable to any day-to-day conflictive situation.
Differences with others, even with people closest to us, are part of the routine. In most cases, these differences are not important, but sometimes they lead to larger conflicts. It is as if a small spark could set an entire haystack on fire. In one way or another, we constantly have to decide if we can make that difference escalate to unsuspected levels.
It is precisely a trait of assertiveness to decide what is given importance and what is not. Assertiveness is still that social skill that allows us defend our rights effectively, put a limit to abuse without being aggressive or violent. However, for it to be effective, we also have to learn to distinguish when our rights are at serious risk and when they are not.
Not every conflict situation requires us to actively do something. Letting go, which is part of assertive indifference, implies having compared the pros and cons of responding to something that harms us. Responding to a pejorative comment or offensive gesture should only be done if it endangers our physical integrity or takes away something of value.
We can conclude that assertive indifference is a tool to manage potentially conflictive situations intelligently. Doing nothing may be the best way to deal with a provocation or attack. Being able to do nothing despite the fact that in the depths of our being we would like to attack is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to avoid absurd conflicts.