"Give it to them before they give it to you."
"Don't trust anyone."
"Be on your guard."
"What are you, a fool?"
This kind of thinking kills companies and kills people too.
It's true: Some people are greedy and cold and grasping for power. Others have too many problems. They cope by acting them out on others. Some cultures are messed up. Stagnant. Fearful. Besieged. Cutthroat.
What is the best response for the individual? Must we choose between Clint Eastwood type leathery toughness and its opposite, despair and blubbering?
Not really. In any situation, bombastic bullying at the one extreme and excessively giving in on the other are both maladaptive. Aggression just adds fuel to the fire, making others angry at you. Martyrdom leaves you angry at yourself.
Psychologists tell us that assertiveness is a middle path. Seeing reality for what it is, we take in the environment and respond appropriately--
1. Self-Defense: Enforcing reasonable boundaries.
2. Diplomacy: Keeping our commitments and thus relationships alive.
3. Authenticity: Being real - being true to ourselves.
Super-toughness may sound good. Accommodation might seem safe. But in the end both of these extremes create more problems than they solve, and cost the individual a lot more than they give back.