What if your Inner Compass tells you to do something that goes against the wishes of your family? What then? What do you do?
Give up your dream? Don't listen to your Inner Compass? Grit your teeth and get on with your family's plan for you and your life?
It's a good question isn't it? And this is where so many people get into trouble, even if they know in their heart of hearts, what they want to do. It could be, for example, choosing a career track your family doesn't approve of, or being in a same sex relationship, or marrying someone of a different race or religion, or dropping out of school or going back to school, or changing jobs, or quitting your job or ... the list of things you might want to do that your family might disapprove of is endless. (It all depends on your family and their belief systems!)
So What Can You Do?
If you don't want to give up your right to be you and follow your Inner Compass, this is where it's important to remind yourself about having a right to be you, and you having an Inner Compass that is always telling you what is best for you. And remind yourself that we are fortunate enough to be living in democratic societies, which protect the rights of the individual to live the life that he or she chooses. (For more about this, see this excerpt on democracy.)
Remind yourself that it's not your job to make other people happy, but that it is your job to follow your integrity and support everyone else in following theirs!
If you're in a situation where other people disagree with you or your choices or projects, it's important to learn how to take care of yourself, set healthy boundaries, and say no when something doesn’t feel right to you (to your Inner Compass). This is what being assertive is all about.
Being assertive means that you can take care of yourself when other people interfere with your right to be you and make the decisions, which feel best to you. In fact, learning to be assertive actually makes it much easier for you to follow your Inner Compass because you know you can take care of yourself when you are guided to do something that the people around you might not approve of. Nothing helps reduce anxiety like assertiveness training!
In this connection, it's also important to understand that being assertive is something most of us have to learn to do, and then practice doing. Being assertive is not something we automatically know how to do. It doesn't happen overnight, even though most of us were naturally assertive when we were little kids. But unfortunately, we usually have had our natural assertiveness trampled out of us at an early age when our parents, and our surroundings, trained us to be people-pleasers and do what they wanted us to do, instead of following our own inner guidance.
Your Assertive Rights
When it comes to learning to be assertive, a good place to begin is to read and think about the list of assertive rights below that were mapped out by Manuel J. Smith in his classic assertiveness book “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty”.
Your assertive rights, i.e. your right to be you and live your life the way you choose, include all of the following:
- 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 offer no reasons or excuses to justify your behavior.
- You have the right to judge whether you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.
- You have the right to change your mind.
- You have the right to make mistakes – and be responsible for them.
- You have the right to say ‘I don’t know’.
- You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
- You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
- You have the right to say, ‘I don’t understand’.
- You have the right to say, ‘I don’t care’.
You have the right to say no, without feeling guilty.”
Once you start to understand these basic rights, the next challenge is how to actually integrate and apply this understanding when dealing with other people who are trying to persuade you, pressure you, or manipulate you into doing what they want you to do. So let's take a brief look at what to do.
The “Sandwich Technique”
A good basic technique to start with is the "sandwich technique", which is a positive, assertive way to respond to other people's demands. The sandwich technique is about responding to other people's requests or demands with sentences or statements, which are made up of two different parts.
In the first part of the sentence, you acknowledge to the other person that you have heard what he or she said. In the second part of the sentence, you give your response. In other words, you tell the person what you think, or feel, about his or her request or demand (i.e. how your Inner Compass is responding to the situation).
So when using the sandwich technique, a good assertive response (which is made up of these two parts) basically sounds like this:
- I hear what you're saying and I feel differently about the matter.
- I really respect your opinion and the way I see it is like this...
- Your friendship means so much to me and I'm going to have to decline your kind offer.
- I understand what you're saying and this is not something for me.
- Thank you for thinking of me and I have other plans for the weekend.
- I really appreciate you thinking of me and I have other plans for Saturday night.
- I can see this really means a lot to you and I’m going to have to say no.
- Yes, I can relate to what you’re saying and from my point of view, it looks to me like...
- Thank you for thinking of me, I really appreciate your concern, and no thanks.
This is a skillful way to deal with whatever people are requesting, or demanding, because you begin by acknowledging that you hear the other person and that you understand what he or she is saying (and even appreciate their interest). Then after that, you come with your response, which is your no, or you setting limits and following your Inner Compass.
Here are some examples:
Example one: You get invited to a party this weekend. The signal from your Inner Compass is one of discomfort so you decide not to go. Here's your conversation with the host.
Host: “We’re really counting on your coming to our party on Saturday.”
Your response: “Thank you so much for thinking of me and I can’t make it that evening.”
Host: “But we’re counting on your coming.”
Your response: “I really appreciate your thinking of me and I can’t come that evening.”
If the person keeps on, you just keep repeating what you said. Sooner or later the other person will give up.
Example two: You get a new job offer. Your Inner Compass doesn't have a good feeling about this and you get the feeling there's something better in store for you.
Your friend / your mother: “I really think you should take that job, it's such a great opportunity for you.”
Your response: “Yes, I can relate to what you’re saying and it’s simply not for me.”
Your friend / your mother: “But can’t you see what a great job opportunity this would be for you. It would be so good for your career.”
Your response: “Thank you for your concern and this job is simply not for me.”
Again, if the person keeps on, you just keep repeating what you said until the other person gives up.
Assertiveness Is About Taking Good Care of Yourself
When you learn to respond assertively to other people's requests in this way, it’s good to remember the other person probably won’t agree with you, and doesn’t have to. Being assertive is not about winning arguments, convincing other people, or being right. Being assertive is about setting limits and taking good care of yourself. It’s not about winning and losing. So be willing to hear and acknowledge the other person’s point of view (“You could be right”), and then clearly state your own position (“and it’s not for me”).
Remember, it's your job to listen to your Inner Compass and take care of yourself in relation to what is going on. The other person is responsible for his or her feelings and opinions about the matter. Each person has a right to his/her feelings and opinions. You don’t have to justify yourself, offer explanations, or find excuses for your choices. (You might want to explain, but the important point to remember is that you don’t have to. You have the right to be you and offer no explanation for your choices.)
So to summarize, here are the main points to keep in mind:
- Acknowledge that you hear the other person.
- Then deliver your response.
- Use the word "and" when connecting the two parts of the sentence because the word "and" is inclusive.
- Don’t expect the other person to agree with you.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, kindly but firmly.
- You are responsible for your feelings and your decision about the matter.
- The other person is responsible for his/her feelings about the matter.
Here are some more good ways to acknowledge the other person’s point of view while maintaining your own rights, position, and point of view. You can say things like:
- I understand you feel that way and in my experience, I find that...
- You could be right and I prefer to do it this way….
- I can understand your point of view and I would rather not …
- I really appreciate your input in this matter and I still…
- I appreciate your thinking of me and the answer is no.
Being Assertive Takes Practice
Learning to say no, set limits, and be assertive like this takes practice. It’s not something one learns in a day or two, it really does take practice. In the beginning, it can help to rehearse situations in your head before and after they occur, especially if you've been in situations where you didn't respond assertively in a good way.
Try going through these situations in your head and visualizing how you would like to tackle these situations the next time they come up. The more you practice in your head, the more you will discover that you can actually do this when situations like these arise in your daily life.
Here's another tip for beginners. When you find yourself in a situation where someone catches you off guard with a request and you’re not sure what your Inner Compass is saying or how to respond – ask for time to consider the matter.
Find and Follow Your Inner Compass: Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload
by Barbara Berger.
Barbara Berger maps out what the Inner Compass is and how we can read its signals. How do we use the Inner Compass in our daily lives, at work and in our relationships? What sabotages our ability to listen to and follow the Inner Compass? What do we do when the Inner Compass points us in a direction we believe other people will disapprove of?
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com
Books by this Author