Manuel J. Smith’s book, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty is a very good book about being assertive. If you have been unassertive in the past for whatever reason, as I have been sometimes, it can help you get past that, and start placing value on your own opinion and rights so that people are not always walking all over your every day.
The book introduces something called the Assertive Bill Of Rights that should be thought of as rules that you can and should apply to your everyday thoughts, and way of living, but probably have not always done in the past.
The Assertive Bill of rights are:
I have the right to be the ultimate judge of my own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon myself.
Yes, you are the judge of your own reality ultimately. The Church, your parents, your boss, your coworkers, even the bobble heads on the News Channels and everyone else in the world is not the ultimate judge of your own thoughts, and emotions. You are a real person, just like everyone else. Underneath the surface there’s no difference between you and the President, any kings you read about in history, any slaves you read about or have seen yourself at your place of employment. Since you are responsible for yourself, you have the right to be assertive in this crazy world and not let everyone else tell you what to think, do, and be.
I have the right to offer no reasons or excuses to justify my behavior.
Just because someone asks you to logically explain any action you take does not mean that you have to give them a logical reason. Logic is really just a way for people to try to manipulate them in to doing what they want sometimes… That’s why statistics lie a lot – change the population of any stat, and the odds are likely that the result of that statistic will change as well. The world is malleable, and not all black and white. People change their thoughts and actions daily. You have the right to not have to justify yourself to anyone other than yourself, and even then sometimes you don’t even need to do that because your subconscious mind knows what the right thing to do is even if your conscious mind does not…
I have the right to judge whether I am responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.
You don’t have the entire world on your shoulders unless you choose to put it there… Take care of yourself BEFORE you take care of others and you might find that you do a better job taking care of both!
I have the right to change my mind.
In other words, your ideas about the way the world is should not be thought of as the only way at any given point in time. You have the right to change what you think about anything at any given point in time, just like anyone else.
I have the right to make mistakes – and to be responsible for them.
No one is perfect. Own your mistakes, but don’t let guilt about them ruin your life.
I have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
That’s right. You can say, “I don’t know” no matter how many people say that you can’t do that. However, don’t take this to the extreme and use “I don’t know” as an excuse for laziness as some people do when asked anything. You have a brain, use it. However, just because you have a brain does not mean that your ideas about the right course of actions to take at any point in time is always 100% yes or no, or whatever. Sometimes you just have to say, “I don’t know” when someone asks you something and expects a yes or no out of you immediately. Take your time and think things over. Don’t let the people around you in your life ruin your life by forcing you to commit to things immediately all the time.
I have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
Some people many not think so, but you do have the ultimate right to take care of yourself before you take care of others. Who cares what the ladies at church think, or the guys that want you to come out to the bars to drink until you are smashed on a work night. Forget what frat guys using peer pressure are trying to get you to do… Of course your boss wants you to work overtime every day and every weekend. You are the ultimate ruler of yourself and your behaviors. Be responsible and good to yourself! Stand up for your rights!
I have the right to make decisions without using logic.
As mentioned above, logic is really just a way for people to manipulate one another in to thinking the thought patterns that the logic giver is giving. Throwing logic out the door can sometimes get you what you want. That manager at the grocery store won’t come to talk to you – maybe you should stand in line at the check out counter and refuse to move until he changes his mind. If that doesn’t work, maybe you should take your shirt off (if you are a guy – no need to break the law ladies)… and then yell a bit louder… pound your fists on that darn table and raise a ruckus. Who cares if logic tells you that you are embarressing yourself and will get no response. Taboos are a part of the logic that is deeply embedded in our society and sometimes they exist for stupid reasons that really are not all that logical at the core…
I have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
The only dumb question is one that’s never asked.
I have the right to say, “I don’t care.”
That’s right. Who gives a hoot is sometimes the best answer! Who cares if your sister is mad at you for not coming to her Christmas party when you really want to go to your in-laws that is at the same time instead. She’ll get over it. Who cares what the ladies at Church think. They are not your God.
The assertive bill of rights is to mainly be reserved for use when you are dealing with people that are manipulating you because you don’t want to make yourself out to be a real pushy jerk… but for folks that are not too assertive naturally, sometimes, that may not be such a bad idea… perhaps they will think twice before they try to stress you out by getting you to do something they want you to do when you really should be doing something else, or just don’t want to do what they want you to do… YOU ARE ALIVE! YOU ARE HUMAN! YOU HAVE RIGHTS TOO!