Coercion elicits resistance.
I couldn’t tell you where I first heard this magical phrase from—maybe it was a core concept that I internalized from behavior modification class or intro to counseling—but it is a concept that has stayed with me for years. A close friend of mine and I were just talking about the idea that when you hear a variety of theories, beliefs, rules, etc., you will typically only be able to recall the concept or idea that stood out to you the most at that time.
And for me, that concept that has always stood out is: coercion elicits resistance.
When people feel pressured or pushed into doing something that they do not want to, our natural inclination is to “push back” or resist. For some, this urge to resist is stronger than in others. I for one almost always become resistant when I feel that I am being coerced into doing something that I’m not okay with, does not align with my values, or something where I’m required to spend my money and I. just. don’t. want. to.
When we begin to feel this urge to resist, it’s often in our best interests to take a step back and ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Is whatever is being asked of me in my best interests?
2. Do you have the means to carry out what is being asked of you?
3. Are you invested in whatever is being asked of you?
4. Do you feel that your freedom is being taken away by whatever is being asked of you?
Let’s apply this to real life. Your new job that you have not even started has just asked that you attend a conference. (1. Is it in your best interest to attend? Will your career be enhanced by you attending this conference?)
They agree to pay for the conference which tallies up to be around $1500, but you are required to pay for hotel, travel, and food expenses. (2. Do you have the means to carry out what is being asked of you?) After tallying up room, board, and food, (not to mention needing to board your pets), you realize that you will end up having to take an 8 hour plane flight to the destination and spending over $2500.
You’re not sure if you even like the subject matter that is being presented at the conference (3. Are you invested in whatever is being asked of you?) but this new job’s clientele revolves around it.
At this point, you’re not feeling much of a choice in the matter (4. Do you feel that your freedom is being taken away by whatever is being asked of you?) and you are the new person on the job, so you feel cornered into having to go.
No matter what, something that you must always keep in mind is that in almost every situation you have a choice!
You have the ability to say no, that you’re not comfortable with something, or flat out that you do not and will not do something being asked of you. When you begin to experience these feelings of resistance, it’s important to explore where they are coming from.
If you’re a person that values your freedom and your ability to have control, then working at a place (or even being involved with someone romantically) where there is very little autonomy is probably going to be a short-lived relationship.
Dissimilarly, if you are the kind of person that needs order, needs to be told where and how to do something, then a job (or romantic partner) that provides high structure is probably going to be a better match. (Please know that I’m referring to a romantic partner that is more Type A Personality and not the type of partner that is controlling and abusive. Two very different things.)
Becoming open to that feeling of resistance is probably one of the most important ways to get to know yourself. Say someone asks you out on a date and every bone in your body screams, NO!!! You could easily be experiencing one of those gut instinct moments that are protecting you from harm’s way. When we experience such strong feelings of resistance, it becomes important to investigate where those feelings are coming from and seek resolution that offers a solution for all parties involved.
Let’s revisit the new job scenario I previously mentioned, the one where you are being asked to attend a conference that you really do not want to. There are several options that can occur:
Option 1: Despite all that money you have to spend and not being fully invested in the conference subject matter, you suck it up and go. After all, you realize that attending the conference will look good on your resume and you hope that it will have a payoff in the long run.
Option 2: Talk to your new employer about your concerns and provide an alternative; “I’ll attend the next conference offered, once I have some time with this company under my belt” or “I would like to see how the job goes first before I make that kind of financial commitment” (which is true. How many new employees have $2500 to spend before they even start working at the job?!)
Option 3: You decide to completely shift gears and decline the job before even getting started. You realize that after “zooming out” (see previous blog post for more info on zooming out), working for this employer is just not going to be a good match for you. It does not matter how you slice it, you may work for someone, but you’re not okay with being told how you have to spend your money in order to work at a certain company.
So many people let fear dictate choices (I am definitely guilty of it from time to time!)—especially when those choices come to finances and relationships.
“Will I be able to support myself if I start my own business?”
“Will I ever find The One if I stop dating for a while?”
“How will I handle the unknown of running a business?”
“Even though I don’t like him/or her, should I still go out with them to get rid of this loneliness?! If I don’t go out with them, will I ever find anyone else?!”
See what I mean? IF you allow fear to creep in, it can easily begin to dictate some very meaningful and powerful life decisions.
Learn to trust yourself. You are your own best expert. Write a list of all the things you hold sacred in your life. Write a list of your strongest and what you may consider weakest personality characteristics. You don’t have to share these things with anyone. Write them down so that you have your own definitions of who you are.
Knowledge is power, but knowledge of self is the secret to life success.
In the future, take note of how you respond when you feel coerced into doing something that you are not comfortable with. Practice having assertiveness in your responses on the “little things” in life, so that when the larger situations arise, you will have more comfort in your responses.
Remember: all decisions that we make ultimately have outcomes. Make your decisions accordingly and in your best interests. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you don’t look out for yourself and your needs from life, then who will?! Love yourself, love those that are close to you, and work towards always being the best version of yourself that you can be.
I leave you with this quote on the ill effects of coercion:
“One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.”
― Albert Einstein
Wishing you the ability to practice self-exploration and assertiveness today and everyday,