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Assertive Rights and Principles Explained

Effective Assertive Communication starts with you knowing and understanding the main Assertive Rights and Principles.

 

An important step of learning how to be more assertive is to make sure that your rights are respected in your everyday interactions, and also that your own actions do not infringe on the rights of others.

In a previous article, I presented a list of 15 Assertive Rights and Principles that I mainly consider in communication and social settings. Now I will explain each of those rights and principles, to help you fully understand the ideas that they stand for and how to implement them in your everyday life.

Let’s start.

 

1. You are entitled to your own beliefs, values, and the associated emotions.

What it means:

Your beliefs, values, and emotions are your own business. Even if they are not popular or validated by others, you are free to entertain them without having to offer justifications for why you believe the things you believe, why you assign meaning to some values and life principles and not to others, or why you feel the way you feel in any given situation.

TIPS:

  • Choose your beliefs based on how they resonate with your internal structure, with your values, principles, goals, and purpose, and not by how popular they are with other people.
  • Check your list of beliefs and values and try to determine whether they are socially inherited from your environment. If so, check them against your own values, desires, and goals. If they match, keep them. If not, discard them with no guilt.
  • Allow yourself to experience any emotions without feeling that they have to be validated by other people. You have the right to react in your own way to a situation, even if others might have reacted differently.

 

2. You have the right to act in accordance with your beliefs, values and associated emotions, as long as you do not deliberately seek to hurt others.

What it means:

You have the right to practice your beliefs, regardless of their meaning to others. The only exception is when the practice of your beliefs would imply causing harm or direct discomfort to other people. The same goes for value prioritization and expression of emotions.

TIPS:

  • Practice your beliefs even if others criticize them. They only need to make sense to you, not to your family, friends, spouse, or neighbors. As long as they are not directly affected in a negative way by those practices, you do not need validation or approval to proceed.
  • Negative impact usually means emotional or physical abuse. Other levels of discomfort should be discussed and options should be considered in relation to individual and common goals and interests. If no compromise can be achieved, this analysis is also a way to decide whether to keep the belief and its specific practice or the relationship with the person bothered by it.

 

3. You have the right to assess your own thoughts, values, emotions, and behaviors and take upon yourself the full responsibility for their expression and consequences.

What it means:

As per assertive principles, you can make any choice for yourself, bad ones included, with the mention that you should take full responsibility for it. Hate speech? Sure, you are free to entertain the thoughts and express them, but at the same time, you should be prepared to face the social consequences for the expression of those thoughts – example: conflict may arise, you may lose your job and relationships, etc. 

Your actions may have even more serious consequences than your words, so consider the outcomes more carefully. 

TIPS: 

  • Always try to understand where your actions may lead – how they may affect yourself, others, and the society you live in. When making a choice that favors a certain behavior, you should be ready to face any of its direct consequences. 

Example: You may choose not to vaccinate your child, but you should be at peace with the following two direct consequences: your child may become seriously ill or they may be isolated from other children and not be accepted in communities such as school environments or even playgrounds.

 

4. You have the right to decide upon your implication in actions that benefit others.

What it means:

You CAN help others, but you DO NOT HAVE TO. Simply because you have the means or resources to help another person, you are under no obligation of doing so. It may sound selfish, but this right actually ensures that you do not deplete your own resources by simply feeling obligated to share them with others all the time. If you want to help, even if that means giving away all your resources, that is totally fine, but it’s a choice you make, not a responsibility or obligation to act in that sense.

TIPS: 

  • Carefully analyze each request to share your resources – from time to money, to expertise, etc. – and decide if it is important for you to take part in that common action and help the other person. Do it if it makes sense to you, not because the other one expects you to or because you fear being considered a bad person.

 

5. You have the right to offer no justification or apology for your actions.

What it means:

You can do whatever it is that you want to do without explaining your reasons to others. Also, do not apologize simply because the other one expects you to apologize or because they try to make you feel guilty. Only offer your apologies if you are internally motivated to do so.

TIPS:

  • Do not apologize for who you are, for what you want to achieve, your likes and dislikes, or for your actions that did not cause any harm to others.
  • Do not apologize often, for insignificant things. You will likely be perceived as passive.

 

6. You have the right to make mistakes and take responsibility for them. You don’t have to be perfect.

What it means:

We all make mistakes of all kinds and we have the right to do so. At the same time, we have to take responsibility for them. Do not expect to be any different and do not allow others to make you feel guilty for things that are a normal part of a person’s life. We are not perfect and that is O.K. For most of our mistakes, we have the chance to make them right. However, we also get to decide whether to take that opportunity or not.

TIPS:

  • Consider mistakes an opportunity to learn and improve. They are not failures, but stages of learning.
  • If your actions caused unintended harm to another person, consider your options to help make the situation better. In some contexts, it might be preferable for you to first make your availability and intentions known to the person and proceed only if they agree for you to be part of the process.
  • In personal contexts, where there is no clear right/wrong value to be assigned to certain interactions, you may want to eliminate the label of “mistake” altogether and simply consider the outcome a less than desirable result that can, most of the times, be modified and improved.

 

7. You have the right to be irrational and make decisions based on irrational reasoning.

What it means:

There are plenty of errors that affect our reasoning at all times. We may attempt to control some of them and may even be successful in diminishing their occurrence in a significant way, yet we are still to find out whether error-free human thinking is a possibility. Until then, we have the right to entertain irrational thoughts, regardless of how they may seem to others.

TIPS:

  • Learn to identify and diminish the occurrence of the main Cognitive Distortions and biases.
  • Optimize your Critical Thinking skills to lower the chances of irrational thoughts and beliefs being formed.

 

8. You have the right to disagree with others. You are entitled to different opinions.

What it means:

It is O.K. to have opinions that are different from those of others. Different does not imply worse or better. Some opinions may be proven as incorrect, but we still have the right to hold and express them.

TIPS:

  • Try to mainly entertain and express informed opinions – Meaning that it is preferable to have knowledge on a subject before conveying a message or conclusion about it.
  • If your opinion is proven as valid in a context, do not let it make you see yourself as better than those who hold a different one. Also, if your opinion is proved to be the wrong one in a context, do not feel inferior to those whose view was valid at that time. Opinions are to be shared and used to grow individually and socially, they are not hierarchical markers.
  • Keep in mind that opinions tend to be different from facts. They might be based on facts, but at core, they are subjective messages.

 

9. You have the right to be respected as an individual.

What it means:

You do not have to do anything special to gain someone else’s respect for you as a human being. You already have it and should receive the proper social treatment in accordance with this basic right. 

TIPS:

  • Aggressive individuals tend to try to make others believe that they are not worthy of consideration and respect from other people, thus creating a context where they can control that person. Do not let yourself be intimidated. Identify toxic interactions and protect your self-esteem, self-confidence, and feeling of self-worth.

 

10. You have the right to display your skills and benefit from the results of your work.

What it means:

Do what you like and what you are good at and enjoy the incentives – material or subjective – that stem from your activity.

TIPS:

  • Don’t let others interfere with your activities or hijack the benefits that you are entitled to as a result of those activities.
  • Follow your interests even if you are your only supporter in that context. Don’t let other people tell you what you should or should not do in situations that only affect you.

 

11. You have the right to say NO to the requests of others. No justification, no guilt.

What it means:

You can refuse any type of request – reasonable or not, without having to provide explanations and without feeling guilty for having said ‘no’. You do not need “a good reason” to decline an invitation or to refuse to help your co-worker respect their deadline. If it is not something that you are willing to do – at that time or at all, say it without being aggressive, and live the life that you want to live.

TIPS:

  • Practice makes perfect when it comes to saying “no” as well. There might be times when your message is going to be dismissed by others. They may try to turn your No into a Yes. Repeat your message until the other one acknowledges it. They do not have to agree, just to acknowledge the message.

 

12. You have the right to formulate your own goals and choose your own priorities.

What it means:

You do not need anyone else’s approval to live your life the way you want to. Set up your own goals and pursue them. Once again, they should not infringe on the rights of others, including their right to pursue their own goals.

TIPS:

  • Make sure that your goals are indeed your goals and that they are not imposed by your environment – family, friends, social norms.
  • Also, keep in mind that you can modify your goals and priorities at any point in your life.

 

13. You have the right to change your mind, your opinions and your beliefs.

What it means:

Changing your mind is a sign of mental flexibility, not instability. New data  – experience, learning, etc. – may trigger changes in your mindset, your beliefs, goals, or preferences. These are all normal occurrences in one’s life and they are often an indicator or personal growth. Instability is linked to high frequency and criteria randomness involved in making those changes. 

TIPS:

  • Constantly update your knowledge base on a variety of subjects and reassess your beliefs, opinions, and goals based on the new data.
  • Do not allow others to make you feel that you are unreliable or guilty of betrayal simply because you have exercised the right to change your views on a subject.

 

14. You have the right to say “I don’t know” and “I do not understand”.

What it means:

Not knowing is not something to be ashamed of, one should not expect absolute knowledge on a subject from anyone, themselves included. The same goes for not being able to grasp the meaning, partially or fully, in a certain context of communication. It is O.K. to say that you do not have knowledge on a topic or that you haven’t reached a conclusion in a certain matter. It is also O.K. to ask for additional information when trying to understand or gain knowledge on a subject.

TIPS:

  • Do not be intimidated if you are the only one who says “I don’t know” or “I do not understand” in a social situation. We each have our own pace to react and learn, and we also entertain different interests and goals.
  • Change your competition-oriented mentality into a growth-oriented mindset. Stop seeing winners and losers and see growth opportunities instead.

 

15. You have the right to be independent.

What it means:

You are the master and architect of your own life. Others should not influence your life to the point where you no longer have control over your own life journey.

TIPS:

  • Exercise making decisions for yourself. It is a habit as much as it is a right.

 

Now that you know what your Assertive Rights are and what they mean, you have made the first steps toward becoming more assertive in your social interactions.

If you want to continue your journey toward an Assertive Mindset and Effective Assertive Communication, I invite you to watch my course Assertive Communication: Build the Independent You, for free, on Skillshare.

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