Points on Being Assertive
“When I say ‘No,’ I feel guilty, but if I say ‘Yes,’ I’ll hate myself.” When you say this to yourself, your real desires are in conflict with your childhood training and you find yourself without cues that would prompt you in coping with this conflict.
As a first step in becoming assertive, you have to realize that no one can manipulate your emotions or behavior if you do not allow it to happen.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT I
You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
- You have the right to be the ultimate judge of yourself: a simple statement that sounds so much like common sense. It is a right, however, that gives each of us so much control over our own thinking, feelings, and behavior that the more manipulatively trained and nonassertive we are, the more likely we are to reject it as the right of other people or even ourselves.
- When we truly doubt that we are the ultimate judge of our own behavior, we are powerless to control our own destiny without all sorts of rules about how each of us “should” behave.
- The more insecure we are, the more fearful we become when there is no superabundance of arbitrary rules for behavior.
- It is your life, and what happens in it is up to you, no one else.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT II
You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses to justify your behavior.
- If you are your own ultimate judge, you do not need to explain your behavior to someone else for them to decide if it is right, wrong, correct, incorrect, or whatever tag they want to use.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT III
You have the right to judge whether you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.
- Each of us is ultimately responsible for our own psychological well-being, happiness, and success in life.
- As much as we might wish good things for one another, we really do not have the ability to create mental stability, well-being, or happiness for someone else.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT IV
You have the right to change your mind.
- To be in touch with reality, and to promote our own well-being and happiness, we have to accept the possibility that changing our minds is healthy and normal.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT V
You have the right to make mistakes—and be responsible for them.
- “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I cite this particular piece of wisdom attributed to Jesus not so much for the compassion and tolerance he urges us to have for other people’s fallibility, but for the more practical observation he forces upon us; none of us is perfect.
- Our assertive right to make errors and be responsible for them simply describes part of the reality of being human.
- However, we are susceptible to manipulation by other people for their own ends if we do not recognize that errors are simply that; just errors.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT VI
You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
- Another of your assertive rights is the ability to make judgments about what you want without needing to know everything before you do something.
- You have the right to say, “I don’t know” without having an immediate answer for questions people may ask you.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT VII
You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
- “No man is an island unto himself,” said John Donne, and this makes a lot of sense.
- Taking it one step further and saying that all men are my brothers and friends, however, exceeds the grossest literary license as well as common sense. No matter what you or I do, someone is not going to like it, someone may even get his feelings hurt as a result.
- If you assume that in order to adequately cope with anyone you first need his goodwill as a brother or a friend, you leave yourself open to as much manipulative leverage as your need for goodwill dictates.
- Contrary to this common assumption, you do not need the goodwill of other people to deal with them effectively and assertively.
- “People get so damned frightened if someone threatens not to like them or doesn’t like them. They get paralyzed and don’t function to their own benefit on jobs, with friends, spouses, lovers, dates, etc. Sometimes one feels like telling people: You’ll never be loved if you can’t risk being disliked!”
ASSERTIVE RIGHT VIII
You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
- Logic is a reasoning process all of us can use sometimes to help in making our judgments about many things, including ourselves.
- Not all logical statements are true, however, nor can our logical reasoning always predict what will happen in every situation.
- In particular, logic is not much help in dealing with our own and other people’s wants, motivations, and feelings.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT IX
You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
- Not one of us is so quick-witted, so perceptive as to fully understand even most of what goes on around us.
- Yet we seem to survive in spite of these limits placed on our capabilities by the human condition.
- We learn what we do by experience and experience with other people teaches most of us that we do not always understand what another person means or wants.
ASSERTIVE RIGHT X
You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”
- There is also much overlap in the most common beliefs that underlie the manipulation of your behavior by other people since they are only different ways of saying one thing: you are not your own ultimate judge.
- One common thread that runs through all the nonassertive beliefs and devices that other people use to manipulate your behavior is the assumption that as a human being, even if you are not perfect, you “should” strive for perfection.
- One of the most important aspects of being verbally assertive is to be persistent and to keep saying what you want over and over again without getting angry, irritated, or loud.
- In learning how to be persistent, the nonassertive person must not give reasons or excuses or explanations as to “why” he wants what he wants; he needs to ignore guilt-inducing statements.