What shapes a person’s personality, nature or nurture?
This is the question I have been asking myself throughout my time at the Washtenaw County Trial Court. Most people, much like myself, would assume that the challenge of working with a judge would be a lack of knowledge of the law, embarrassing oneself in an inappropriate place, or something along the lines of not being professional enough. Although these were all things I dealt with during my first few weeks of my internship, they were not monumental enough to be the topic of a blog post on my biggest obstacle.
An issue that was enough to become a large hurdle for me was that of assertiveness. It is not in my nature to be assertive, which can be a flaw and a strength. I like to listen more than I like to talk, especially when I am in a new learning environment like I am in at the court. On the other hand, it can lead to people not listening to me and sometimes makes me feel less confident in speaking out.
My supervisor expects the three interns, two boys and one girl (me), to offer opinions and be vocal about our experiences each day. According to her, I did not state my opinions firmly enough or was not vocal enough to prevent the boys from interrupting me. This was something I had not noticed, so when she first called my attention to the issue I was quite surprised. We talked about this problem and I told her that it was not my personality type to state my opinion until I had time to thoroughly think something through, especially when I was talking about something, like the law, that I was unfamiliar with.
Despite this, my supervisor brought the issue up to me again a few weeks later. I was frustrated because I thought I was doing better at being assertive and that I had improved since our first talk. I fumed that night over what I then thought of as personality critiques, but had the chance to cool down and think the issue through. Perhaps I could appreciate my nature, to be more observant, while also learning how to be more assertive from someone who was willing to give me the chance to do so.
The next day, I went into my supervisor’s office and respectfully told her that I would be more assertive as long as she understood that there was a certain amount of myself that I could not and would not change. In this way, I believe I was assertive by standing up for myself, and ever since this time I have felt more comfortable speaking up in our discussions. It’s still a work in progress, but I am happy with my steps forward for the moment being. That means that nurture, or advice and teaching by a mentor figure, must play a role in something!