Your Assertiveness Rights
Ever since Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In came out, there has been a lot of discussion in my circles about women’s progress in the workplace, what it means to “lean in” and how to be more assertive. In light of that I have been blogging about assertiveness and encouraging women to understand it is a choice and not a prescription. Sometimes being assertive can make life uncomfortable and I think it is helpful to know that we have choices and can pick our battles. For this newsletter, I’d like to focus on a definition of assertiveness as well as the Assertiveness Rights as we taught them at Social Fluency (www.socialfluency.com). Merriam Webster Dictionary defines assertive as: disposed or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior. I’d like to tweak that definition a little so it feels more relational. Assertiveness is a skill that takes place in relationship to the other people in our lives, whether personal or professional. It is about asking for what you want, feeling comfortable stating your opinions, and it is also about setting boundaries – knowing and understanding what your limits are and expressing those to others. In my mind, it is ultimately about taking care of yourself in relationship to other people, while respecting that others have the right to take care of themselves too. At Social Fluency we taught assertiveness in combination with empathy and encouraged using non-violent language principles (see Marshall Rosenberg). This approach helps maintain rapport and makes it less likely to put people on the defensive. Any relationship is a two-way street and when we create rapport and have respect for the other person’s rights, we are much more likely to create a mutually agreeable solution to an issue or to create consensus. It can be uncomfortable to set boundaries if you are not accustomed to it. I find the following perspectives helpful:
It is comforting and safe for everyone when there are clear firm boundaries in a relationship; it creates a structure or container without which it can feel chaotic and confusing.
Any relationship will include some overstepping of boundaries as part of the learning process as a relationship develops, but a pattern of ongoing boundary violations does not serve either person or the relationship.
Here are your Assertiveness Rights as we taught them at Social Fluency:
The right to say no
The right to not have to give excuses
The right to be listened to
The right to express your opinion
The right to say I don’t know
The right to give and receive constructive feedback
The right to make mistakes
The right to change your mind
The right to be given respect
The right to take appropriate risks
Keeping these rights in mind as you negotiate relationships supports your ability to take care of yourself. Understanding that others have these rights supports empathy for others.