being direct

I’m not a very assertive person. That’s not to say I’m not loud or bubbly, I simply have a hard time putting my opinions or thoughts out there in person.

For example: I’m always afraid to get into a political debate because I’m afraid I’ll come out looking dumb. I’m not college educated and I certainly am not worldly, but I know what I think is right. Do I have facts? No. Do I have pie charts and graphs? Not at all. But I know if I feel something is right. And while I want to defend my feelings to the ground, I typically bow out because I just don’t want to be outdone by someone who knows something with percentages. It’s silly, really.

Mostly, I have a hard time being direct to people who are standing in front of me. Regardless of the issue. Even if it’s in the person’s best interest that I tell them what’s up. Especially if that person is hurting me. I just don’t have it in me to say, “Hey, you’re hurting me.” I just let it be most of the time.

Lately I’ve been finding that not being direct is directly affecting me. In one instance alone, I’ve been allowing someone to treat me poorly simply by omission and ignoring. And while I usually would find that as a sign that that person probably isn’t good to be in my life, it makes me sad because I honestly don’t know what I did wrong. But am I direct enough to ask why? Nope. Which in turn is my own issue. And I guess I’m OK with that.

Today, however I finally was able to be direct.

At work, I had a patient who was anything but patient. She was rude, angry, weepy and plain unpleasant. She blamed all the world’s problems on gays, lazy doctors and poorly written novels. (I didn’t have the heart to mention to her that the 17th installment of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series that she was reading isn’t top quality. But you know. I wanted to.) She treated me poorly by demanding ridiculous things of me and then wouldn’t say thank you, instead she would say, “I’m a nurse, too, you know. This is what we’re supposed to do.”

And so I finally said to her, “And what is it we’re supposed to do? Be doormats?”

She stopped, blinked and smiled. “Well, I guess you’re not are you?”

And so after nearly 8 hours of listening her complain about how her back hurts, how McDonald’s fries aren’t as good as Wendy’s and why on God’s green earth would her friend bring her McDonald’s fries when any idiot knows Wendy’s fries are better for you because they’re naturally cut, and can you believe that doctor actually told her she should watch her weight, and why are my sheets crumpled? Don’t you know that 20 years ago, a Nun would have slapped you silly with a ruler? I got tired. I simply got tired. Everything was wrong and nothing was right.

I asked her, “Why does your back hurt?”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“Don’t you think you’d like to find out?”

“Well of course.”

“So why do you refuse these tests?”

“Because my back hurts.”

“OK, why not take the pain medication prior to taking the test?”


“No! No. Stop making excuses and own up to this. Your back hurts. It hurts. You cry about it hurting. All day you tell me it hurts. Find out. Stop being afraid and find out.”

“You’re right. I will.”

And she did.

Does this mean I’m a changed woman and will be more direct to everyone? Probably not. But did I have ridiculous amounts of adrenaline running through my veins at that exact moment? Heck yes. And I probably could have fought a bear and won.

We all have flaws. I am flawed. Of course I wish I could be better. But sometimes, when I’m standing there in that exact moment and things are happening and I’m being talked down to, I have such a hard time saying no. I have a hard time standing up for myself. And most of all, I have a hard time with being afraid of looking stupid.

But today? Today I said no. And that will have to do for now.


About Cassie

Two sisters from two misters. What could be more fun?

Posted on July 28, 2012, in Cassie. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Remind me to start complaining to you more often so you can kick my ass 🙂 God knows I need someone to tell me what to do! LOL Love you, honey. Glad you took a stand with her. You did her a world of good.

  2. Deb K from Harrisburg

    I have begun following Captain Awkward’s blog and she dispenses very practical advice for a wide variety of issues that her readers write to her about. A common theme to the questions she receives relates to how to convey your concerns in a direct and assertive way that is not aggressive. Just by reading her blog I have learned so much and have begun to incorporate it into my life. I don’t know if you would enjoy it or find it useful but I thought I would mention it. Once again, you demonstrate through your actions why you are such an outstanding nurse. And some of the smartest, most thoughtful people I know are not formally educated but they’re very well read and informed. I include you in that category.

  3. Good for you and good for that woman! I always struggle to find the line between not saying anything at all and saying too much: as I kind of have to incite myself to say something, I sometimes end up being too nervous and therefore too direct …
    I would have loved to have you as a nurse both times I was in hospital – for myself and also for my roommate who did not stop complaining the whole day long how bad her pain was for six. whole. days. Just to discover halfway through that she had put her painkillers in her bedside table and had forgot about them! To top it all, she refused to make the (very light) exercises every doctor told her to do in order to strengthen her back muscles and relieve the pain. I sure would have loved a nurse to tell her something similar to what you told this woman today…

    • One thing I love about my hospital is that we have private rooms. That alone would have saved you some grief. I often find myself frustrated by those who complain, yet won’t do for themselves. One common thing I do say, that is very direct, “If you don’t do the work to fix it, you don’t have the right to complain.”

  4. I was once much like you… wouldn’t say boo to a goose. But I found, the older you get, the less likely you are to put up with other people’s bullshit. You’re way ahead of schedule. Well done, my friend.

    • Oh, Bluz is totally right. With age comes the inability to put up with BS. I feel your pain, Cass, it’s a tough one for me, too, but I think because I’m a professor, I am able to be much more direct and apply that directness to other parts of my life. However, family members are more problematic because we love them and don’t want to hurt their feelings.

      • I did once yell at a person who took my RPM class and chatted LOUDLY in the back the whole time. The members were pretty pissed, so when I told her that the fact that she could carry on a conversation meant she wasn’t working hard enough, that shut her up.

    • Well, let’s just hope I stick with it, Bluz.

  5. I see our conversation wore off on you! I’m proud of you. Sometimes people just need someone to cut through their denial so they can hear the truth. Sounds like you did an amazing job with that.

    • Ha! It did! I just sometimes have to realize that not everyone is going to like me. I should just tell them the truth when their health is on the line.

  6. Good for you! Some people just need to hear it and I agree with bluzdude, the older you get the less likely you are to put up with bullshit. I think it is because you finally realize just how valuable your time is so you don’t want to waste it dealing with BS and how YOU are worth more than having to deal/put up with it.

    • I often think a lot of people just like the sound of their own voice. Which, yes, I do, but refusing to help myself is something you’ll never hear me do.

  7. I feel just the way you do when it comes to political fights and knowing I don’t have the facts. I KNOW I’m right, but I’m so terrible at remembering facts and figures when I need them. And the worst is that my best friend is The Best at remembering facts and figures, so when I get into a lady-related argument with my all-male co-workers, I feel like I’m letting her down by not being able to recite the things she can.

    I’ve been direct with people twice lately–being honest and non-snarky and asking for what I wanted–and it’s worked out both times and left me feeling good about the people I was dealing with. I think we’re growing up.

    • That is true. You did tell me about those situations. I honestly just worry that people with either hate me or understand me all wrong. I hate being misunderstood. I also hate being viewed as a bitch. But when I try to be direct, I come off as standoffish and bitchy. Le sigh.

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