17. Remain unattached to the outcome

‘The person who cares less, wins.’

No matter how adept at being assertive we might become, we will still lose many encounters. A few of us will refuse to lose any, and use attrition as a weapon. But wearing down the opposition isn’t being assertive, it’s being aggressive. (Would you want to live with someone who refuses to lose?)

A few people will lose only the occasional battle, and when they do lose, they take it to heart and resent it for days.

Even applying our assertiveness skills, we will lose battles. That’s to be expected. The person we deal with might be well practised in dealing with customers, or be restricted by policy, or have superb assertive skills themselves. And, they might just be in the right. Applying assertiveness skills will not guarantee a win, but those skills allow us to direct our life, and that’s the important bit. Win, lose or draw, we have met life head-on instead of meekly capitulating. We have connected with people on a deep and basic level, while treating them respectfully. We have made a spot for ourselves in our little boat, in our stormy sea, without pushing anyone over the side.

When we do lose an encounter, hopefully we will shrug the loss off and get on with life. And, we can remind ourselves that we followed the procedures, and that’s all we can do. We can also be pleased we took the trouble to stick up for ourselves, and in the process, gave ourselves the message that we are worth sticking up for.

‘Will we undermine ourselves by expecting to lose often?’

No. It’s unrealistic to win every time. Besides, that easygoing fatalism can help us. If we are not attached to the outcome – if we care less than the other guy – we increase our chances of having a favourable outcome. That’s because we have a healthier perspective on the matter: we understand our opinion, and theirs. By seeing both points of view we can make a sound case. And by having less to lose, fear and desperation won’t skew our judgment or presentation.

How to care less:
1. Before the encounter, ask yourself:
– What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t win this encounter?
– How important will this be to me in a year from now?
– What will it mean for the other person to ‘win’ the encounter?
– What will it mean for them to lose it?

2. Remind yourselfthat the other person does not necessarily care about your interests, and they may not be ethical. There is a good chance you will lose the encounter. Just enjoy swatting the tricks they try. Cling to the mast and see what happens.