Assertiveness, old German ladies, and "gut."
Do you hail from the middle of the country? Nothing kicks the Midwest out of you like German, as Laura F. wrote in response to last week's post:
Growing up in the Midwest, one of the principles I absorbed was that it is terrible to hurt other people's feelings. In my early adulthood, I was really too agreeable for my own good. In Germany, living in their culture and using their language, I learned to be more assertive. It was in German that I first told people things like, "No, I'm not going to give you money," or "Leave me alone."
These are incredibly valuable lessons, especially for women who were not taught to make a fuss when they need to make a fuss. It's like those boundaries are simply clearer and they come through the German culture.
I once witnessed a woman put a very rude man in his place and she did it just like a German--calmly, rationally, specifically, and completely. He was so rude he even said "du" to her, even though they were strangers to one another, and she looked him straight in the eye and said:
"Mich dürfen Sie siezen." (You must say "Sie" to me.)
It was epic. You can learn a lot from watching this kind of interaction!
This applies to many situations, like people smoking in train stations where they aren't allowed to smoke. A passenger will actually say "Hey, you're not allowed to smoke here." And usually the smoker will move. In the US, you'd probably get the finger, a swear word, or worse. Can you imagine that smoker actually moving? To the designated smoking area? It's incredible.
Directness can change your dealing with a lot of other people. Laura's discovery of being direct was obviously helpful for her in everyday situations, but, it turns out, it helped her at work, too.