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Monday, September 07, 2009

Speaking Up When a Response is not Required

Much of the time when we speak up for ourselves, the goal is to get something to happen that we want to happen. Sometimes, however, a soft assertion is a valuable way to speak up for yourself.

A soft assertion by definition is taking a stand when you do not require a response. This can be as simple as wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it such as "Atlanta Braves." The shirt tells the world that you support the Atlanta baseball team. You don't expect people to respond to the shirt, but you are sending a message, all the same.

A soft assertion can be a compliment. When I give a compliment, I am taking a risk. The recipient of the compliment can accept my gift (the compliment) and simply say thank you. Occasionally someone will reject your compliment: "Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years."

Today I was driving home from the N. Georgia mountains with a quarter of a tank of gas. I knew I should fill up my car. There's a gas station between Clarkesville, GA and Cleveland, GA that always has comparatively low gas prices. I haven't stopped there before but decided that I had enough gas to get there before filling up today.

It's Labor Day so there are lots of people on the road. I like to take what I call the "pretty way" home which involves only about 1/3 of the trip on Interstate roads. The rest of the trip is on pretty country roads. I took that today and easily got to the gas station between Clarkesville and Cleveland.

As I pulled into the station , the prices were predictably low for the area ($2.38/gal compared to the usual $2.48 everywhere else). I drove up to the pump to find a white hand-written sign the size of a piece of typing paper taped to the front of the pump. I couldn't read the ball-point pen writing and decided that pump was probably out of gas at those low prices.

I pulled to the second pump which had the same sign taped to it. I stopped, opened my gas tank, and got out of the car. The sign in small handwriting in ball point pen actually said, "Fishing supplies inside."

When I went in to the gas station store to get my receipt, I used a soft assertion with the station manager. "Sir, those signs taped to the pumps are very hard to read. I thought they meant that the pumps were out of gas and almost didn't stop. I couldn't read that they said "Fishing supplies inside" until I got out of the car."

He actually replied, "Well, I don't have any more signs." (not sure what he meant - that he couldn't re-do them or that he didn't have another way to advertise his fishing supplies???)

I said, "Well, since I almost didn't stop and probably I won't be the only confused person today, I thought you'd want to know."

Since a response is not required to a soft assertion - it doesn't make any difference to me whether he changes the signs or not - I smiled, thanked him for the receipt, and went out the door.

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