About dealing with those other people…that’s what makes life so challenging, right? Regardless of whether we like or don’t like certain people, we still have to live with them.
To experience meaningful, mutually satisfying relationships, we need to balance our own rights with legitimate rights of others. Yes, even those jerks that plague our very existence! In this series on skillful living, I recently addressed how to live confidently by asserting our rights. Now let’s look at the flip side of that.
Consider Other People’s Rights
- They have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect.
- They have the right to have and express their own feelings and opinions even though they may differ from mine.
- They have the right to be listened to and to be taken seriously.
- They have the right to set their own priorities, and at times these may be different from mine.
- They have the right to say no without being labeled “wrong” or “bad”. They have the right to ask me for what they want. (I have the right to say no.)
- They have the right to get what they pay for or what I have promised.
- (I have the right to release a commitment that is no longer relevant or healthy)
- They have the right to make mistakes. No one is perfect all the time.
- They have a right to assert themselves, even though it may inconvenience me. (I have the right to say )
- They have the right to choose not to assert themselves. They can choose to compromise or let it go.
- They have the right to disagree with me. This does not make them “bad” or “wrong”.
- They have the right to be moody, emotional, inconsistent, unreasonable, demanding, and impatient. I may not like that, but it is a fact of life. (I have the right to not get emotionally involved.)
Two people never agree all the time.
Occasionally, or frequently, problems arise because we expect, or even demand, that the other person behave according to our personal viewpoint. ‘Tain’t gonna happen. One person’s life experiences have conditioned a unique perspective that will never completely match up with anyone else. Until you consider someone else’s perspective, communication will be rocky at best.
For maximum benefit:
You need to temporarily step into the other person’s shoes. (For some people, you might want to spray those imaginary shoes with super-strong Cootie deterrent!)
- Be open to consider every relationship in a new light. Transform your interactions.
- Read the above list of rights several times.
- Each time, consider it from the viewpoint of a different person in your life.
People to consider: Family members. Partners. Exes. Children. Parents. Friends. Coworkers. Bosses. Neighbors. People who irritate you. People who mistreat you. People who confuse you. People you adore. People you trust.
- If someone pops into your mind, unsolicited, review it from their point of view. There’s a reason they surfaced now to be considered.
- Monitor your self-talk as you work with this; switch from negative blah blah to encouraging, supportive thoughts.
- Don’t avoid this exercise – it’s very important to maintain this balanced perspective in order to be skillful with assertive behavior. Genuinely seek to understand their perspective in each area. Resulting insights give clues to help you connect.
Simply understanding these principles doesn’t make them work in your life. You have to change your behavior to make changes in relationships.
About that person in your life who doesn’t “deserve” to be respected or listened to:
- That is exactly what they are thinking about you.
- Whenever you judge another person, misunderstandings are always exaggerated.
- In that other person’s mind, they justify their personal viewpoint. If you negatively attack or resist it, they strengthen their stand. Don’t believe me? Observe political campaigns.
- Listening to someone does not mean you are agreeing with them.
- Another person’s history may be a reasonable cause of their dysfunction. You can have empathy for them, and set your personal boundaries, without condoning or feeding into that dysfunction.
- This is a balancing act. Don’t neglect your own rights in order to address theirs.
Don’t apply all Rights at once.
Choose only one right to practice at a time. When you focus on one, plenty of situations arise for you to use it. If you feel complete with one, choose another to apply. Alternately, when a challenging situation arises with another person, review this list and choose which one is best apply.
Practicing your own assertive rights is plenty of work. Doing the same with others is equally challenging. But in the long run, learning this skill from both angles leads you into a more confident and effective reality.
In my next post, we will address how to say “no”.
Suggested reading: The Assertiveness Workbook, by Randy J Patterson. http://www.amazon.com/The-Assertiveness-Workbook-Yourself-Relationships/dp/1572242094
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