This is part 2.1 of twelve articles for Assertive Communication Series.
When we all really think about it, we are forced to admit that sometimes (if not regularly) we live our lives under the hegemony of our upbringing, the pressure of how we were taught to behave and feel, of our fears. We do not wish to argue that one should disregard all the manners and all the rules, and live a life of a complete anarchy. Although, we will say that a person has a right to – but with the responsibility for the consequences of such decision.
In our two-part article we will go over what is known as ten assertive rights. These are certain truths, axioms which all too often don’t get exercised. However, if one wishes to be an assertive person with feelings of self-respect, independence, freedom, sovereignty and last but not least – satisfaction, he or she cannot achieve that without practicing these rights:
1st Assertive Right – It is your unquestionable right to judge your own behavior independently on others’ opinions; however, it is also your responsibility to bare consequences of your actions
Many of us live by other people’s rules, precisely because we are not prepared to be accountable for our own decisions. Or maybe we are too insecure to be confident in our judgement, to go after our desires. It is far easier to play someone else’s game. Take an example of a very successful young business woman who comes to see a psychologist with the symptoms of a severe depression. As it turns out, she hates her job and everything that comes with it. She studied economics and got a highly paid position because her parents pushed her into it. She actually wanted to be an artist and travel the world. And now she is in her thirties and cannot seem to find her purpose; but she is still too afraid to face the possible critique of her family, friends and colleagues. She, as many others, does not value “I want” over “I have to”.
2nd Assertive Right – You don’t always have to explain or justify yourself
To be honest, people who exercise this assertive right are truly rare. On the other hand, there are too many of those who relentlessly defend every move they make to someone, even when the explanation is not asked for. It is not uncommon for someone to apologize even though they are the ones who got hurt or damaged. How often did you make up an intricate reason not to borrow a book to someone, instead of just saying: “I am sorry, I can’t let you borrow my book”? This happens mostly when a person cannot distinguish between civilized behavior and irrational submission to rules, to aggressor, to other’s need for control, etc. Remember – you are not obligated to explain everything you do; and the motivation of those who demand you to (even if they are your friends, partners or family) is questionable, to say at least.
3rd Assertive Right – It is up to you to determine if you will try and help someone
The pressure to be selfless is enormous. And we do not say that self-sacrifice is not an admirable and magnificent characteristic – if genuine. However, there are occasions in which a person plays a part of a martyrdom simply because they are too afraid they would be rejected if they didn’t. An assertive person will estimate whether their motivation to help someone is authentic, not a product of a feeling of guilt, and then act accordingly.
4th Assertive Right – You have the right to change your mind
Only inflexible and rigid individuals don’t change their opinion if the circumstances change significantly. Nevertheless, many of us resist altering their position and ways, and in the root of this behavior is mostly fear. We are taught that changing our mind is a sign of weakness, of lesser intelligence, of a feeble character. Changing your mind simply means you can think!
5th Assertive Right – You have the right to make mistakes
To err is human. Yes. But many of us are raised to be flawless, and nothing less. Here is the news – you don’t have to be perfect! You have a right to make mistakes, there is not a person in the world who hadn’t made a single slip-up in their life. Nonetheless – an assertive person has an obligation to be accountable for the consequences of their mistakes, big or small. Most don’t admit their errors due to the fear of being criticized and ridiculed, punished even. But the path to an accomplished individual is taking responsibility for the mistakes they make and learning from them.
In Part 2 we will talk about the next five assertive rights, and the ways of becoming a self-confident and realized person through exercising them.