This is part 2.2 of twelve articles for Assertive Communication Series.
In the previous article we wrote about five assertive rights of every individual. There are five more rights we invite you to deliberate upon, and ask yourself up to what extent you practice them in your everyday life.
6th Assertive Right – If you are not familiar with something, exercise your right to say: “I don’t know”
This one should be fairly simple. However, in all honesty, most of us are so afraid of admitting that we don’t know something, that we band over backwards just to come up with any answer! Why is this? Among other reasons, because of the pressure to be perfect, belief that we are going to be judged and ridiculed if we don’t know something, and the schooling system in which not knowing a lesson is sanctioned and publicly frowned upon. But, do you remember Socrates…?
7th Assertive Right – You have the right not to understand something
Socrates was ruled to be the wisest Athenian of his times by Pythia, because he was the only one who was aware of how much there is to know, that is – of how much he himself doesn’t know. It is not humanly possible to understand everything, and to know everything. Say it freely and openly: “I don’t understand” (even if you are a college professor!). That is the only way to get to understand it in future. And it is a trait of wise and sovereign people.
8th Assertive Right – You have the right to selfishly guard your independence
What makes this right particularly difficult to exercise is the fact that both our biology and our upbringing predispose us to stay in the herd. When we are born, we are literally unable to survive without someone taking care of us. And as we grow, the society raises us to believe that the safest path for survival is to belong to a group and conform to its norms. There are three possible ways we can go – egocentrism (if we reject all norms and live isolated), conformism (if we accept all norms without questioning them) and assertiveness (if we maintain our independence, yet don’t detach ourselves from others).
9th Assertive Right – You have the right to try and satisfy your needs
It sounds simple. But when you think about it – how often did you give up your needs just to avoid confronting someone, or causing any sort of unpleasant reaction? Did you ever sit through an entire three hours long lecture in discomfort because you were too embarrassed to go to the bathroom? I did. Or, on the other hand – did you ever guilt your partner into staying at home and watch movies, when she wanted to go to a club with friends? Humans are creatures of needs. And the needs are highly subjective category. An assertive person will respect the needs of others, all their assertive rights; and in the same time, she will ask for her legitimate needs to be met without feeling uncomfortable, while resisting if someone tries to aggressively impose their needs upon her.
10th Assertive Right – You have the right to freely express your feelings
You are not a tree. So don’t be afraid to feel, and to express your emotions – both positive and negative. Assertive communication gives you tools to get a grip on exercising this right, as we know it can be the most difficult thing. We are afraid of what the reaction will be if we talk about how we feel, we cannot speak coherently when under strong emotions, we are raised to stay composed and never show anger, affection or fear… Assertiveness teaches us how to express ourselves, and when to do it (frankly, a clerk in the bank probably won’t care if you tell her that you’re hurt and feeling sad because they denied you a loan).
The ten assertive rights should serve as a tool to bring into awareness what is supposed to be self-understood. But we know it takes hard work to achieve the ideal of an assertive person who follows all of the rights she has in all situations, without disrespecting others. In what situations you don’t have a problem following these prerogatives? Do you find it harder to stay assertive with your family, your friends or a partner, for example? There are reasons for this, and we will discuss them in the following articles in our series on assertiveness.