The Bill of Assertive Rights

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Estimated reading time: 5 min

Background

The bill of assertive rights is 10 things that highlight the freedoms we have to be ourselves without disrespecting others. The 10 statements are choices that we have and, like many other rights that we have, are things that we are all entitled to.

They help us to understand how and when we can all be more assertive and how we can respond to others who are not being assertive with us.

They also point out that we also have the right to choose to not be assertive if we don't want to be - but we also have to accept the consequences of not choosing to be assertive.

In his book ‘When I say no, I feel guilty’, Manuel J Smith first proposed the ten-point 'Bill of Assertive Rights', all based around one key principle: 'The right to be the final judge of yourself is the prime assertive right which allows no one to manipulate you'.

The Bill of Assertive Rights

The 'Bill of Assertive Rights' in When I Say No, I Feel Guilty reads as follows:

  1. You have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
  2. You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behaviour.
  3. You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people's problems.
  4. You have the right to change your mind.
  5. You have the right to make mistakes - and be responsible for them.
  6. You have the right to say, 'I don't know'.
  7. You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
  8. You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
  9. You have the right to say, 'I don't understand'.
  10. You have the right to say, 'I don't care'.

Right to Judge Your Own Behaviour

Right 1 in the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

This means that we have the right to judge the most appropriate way to respond, act, feel, think and behave, but, we must also accept the consequences, whether positive or negative, that our choice has.

For example, you have the right to be negative or aggressive to someone else. But, we can't then blame the other person if they choose to no longer work or respond to us or act negatively or aggressively back toward us.

Right to Offer No Reasons or Excuses for Justifying Your Behaviour

Right 2 in the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behaviour. This means that if we are asked about our behaviour, we can make the choice not to justify why we are behaving the way that we are.

That said, right 1 also comes back into play here in that we also have to accept responsibility for choosing not to justify it and shouldn't blame others if they respond negatively back toward us.

Right to Judge if You are Responsible For Finding Solutions

Right 3 in the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people's problems.

This means that we can make the decisions as to whether we should help other people fix issues or problems that they have - even if we are directly asked for help and support.

We can decide whether we offer our help and support to others. We can decide to do so or not. Again, right 1 comes into play in that we also have to accept the consequences for not doing so.

Right to Change Your Mind

Right 4 in the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to change your mind. This means that you have the right to change a decision that you have made or go back on something that you promised.

We can break a promise or change a process that we have said that we are committed to. We can change our minds as often as we like.

Right to Make Mistakes

Right 5 in the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to make mistakes - and be responsible for them. This one is straightforward in that we all have the right to make mistakes. We all do make mistakes from time to time. But, when we do, we should own up to them and not blame other people for them.

Making mistakes becomes a problem for us and for others when we try and pass the blame for our actions on to someone else.

Revolution Learning and Development Assertiveness Skills Training Course - the bill of assertive rights

Right to Say, 'I Don't Know'

Right 6 from the bill of assertive rights is the right to say, 'I don't know'. This one is pretty simple too. We have the right to speak up and tell others that we don't know the answer to a question or we don't know how to do something.

We should do this over trying to guess or attempt something that we don't know how to do and failing.

Others may use your mistakes as a way of manipulating you, for example constantly pointing them out or bringing them up. But, as we have the right to make them, we should choose how much of an effect others have on us.

Right to Be Independent of the Goodwill of Others

Right 7 from the bill of assertive rights is you have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them. A little trickier this one.

This right means that people will disagree with you from time to time. You don't need the approval of others for all of your ideas - even if they disagree. You don't need to satisfy everyone or change your position or ideas to suit them.

We have the right to be steadfast and carry on regardless, even if people do disagree or disapprove of us. That is your decision to make.

Attempting to satisfy everyone else can leave you open to manipulation and can cause more damage than necessary to the relationships that you have.

Right to be Illogical in Making Decisions

Right 8 from the bill of assertive rights is the right to be illogical in making decisions. This means that all of your decisions do not have to make sense or show that there is a logical process behind them.

Not all decisions can be made using logic or reason. Some decisions require creativity and a 'suck it and see' approach. Others may challenge you on your decisions, but remember, you always have right 7 to fall back on.

Right to Say, 'I Don't Understand'

Right 9 from the bill of assertive rights is the right to say, 'I don't understand'. Much like right 6 (the right to say I don't know'), we have the right to speak up to say that there is something that we don't understand. If we don't, we then have to go along with others as we have to believe they are right.

Much like many of the other rights, others may try to manipulate us but pointing out our lack of understanding. But, knowing we have the right to say this means we can judge how others reactions and responses should affect us.

Right to Say, 'I Don't Care'

Right 10 from the bill of assertive rights is the right to say, 'I don't care'. We don't have to care what other people think, what other people feel or about other people's ideas.

Like other rights, we can do this providing we accept the consequences for doing so, but we don't have to feel sorry for everyone, we don't have to feel as though we have to listen to others problems and we don't have to care how others respond to us.

Protecting Your Assertive Rights

To ensure you live out and protect these rights, you need to be assertive. Making your decisions about your right and how and when you will use them should be made through assertive decision making. Choosing the most appropriate response should be made through conscious choice and not through emotion.

You can read more about making conscious decisions by reading our article The Assertive Choice Triangle.

Others Assertive Rights

Everyone else has the same rights as you do, meaning they also need to be assertive to have their rights.  By becoming aggressive, you are violating their rights, if you become passive, they have the opportunity to violate your rights. This is much more in relation to our responses to others. We may choose to manipulate others when they use their rights. If we do, then we are not being assertive.

Further Learning

If you would like to learn more about the bill of assertive rights being assertive then attending an Assertiveness Skills training course can help. Take a look at Assertiveness Training from our training partner Revolution Learning and Development Ltd.

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