Protecting Our Rights

Pope Francis’ Motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi”, establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions. It includes the obligation for clerics and religious to report abuse. Every Diocese must have a system that allows the public to submit reports easily.

The document covers not only violence and abuse against children and vulnerable adults, but also sexual abuse and violence resulting from an abuse of authority as well. This includes cases of violence against religious by clerics, as well as abuse committed against adult seminarians or novices.

One way to protect people is to provide good them with training in being assertive, so that they can challenge the unacceptable behaviours of others, or to feel confident to report such behaviours to appropriate authorities.

This article discusses assertiveness and what it involves.

(The following notes are a collection of notes, some of which were taken from Fr. Claude Mostowik MSC. We acknowledge his contribution.)

Assertion Involves:

Assertiveness involves remaining calm, stating our wants, and expressing our feelings honestly, directly, and appropriately. It also involves taking into consideration the rights and feelings of others, and very importantly it includes the expression of positive feelings, such as kindness, gratitude, affection, and love.

1.    putting our problem-solving choice of option into action.

2.    protecting our rights and feelings.

3.    Considering the rights and feelings of others.

4.    Expressing wants and feelings honestly, directly, and appropriately.

5.    Expressing positive emotions towards others.

6.    Being calm.

The motive for assertion is to communicate ideas, feelings, and desires to others so that the problem can be clarified and solved through full and free discussion. Many people believe that the purpose of life is to always get their own way, to win every argument, and that the best way to achieve these aims is to be overly aggressive. To achieve their objectives, they are prepared to hurt, to humiliate, and to alienate others.

Aggression Involves:

1.    Putting our case by raising our voices, yelling, and demanding in an angry manner.

2.    Ignoring the rights and feelings of others.

3.    Trying to achieve our goals at the expense of others.

4.    Closing of communication.

5.    Alienating others.

6.    Being angry.

The motive for aggression is to dominate, to hurt and to humiliate others to gain one’s own ends. Aggression is aimed at stopping communication and preventing an examination of options that don’t please the aggressor. The way of behaving that many others frequently adopt is to be non-assertive or submissive.

Non-Assertive or Submissive or Submissive Behaviour Involves:

1.    Being so overly concerned about what others think of us, about hurting their feelings, about pleasing them that we do not act on what we have decided to do, or something that is unlikely to solve the problem well.

2.    Failing to protect our rights and feelings.

3.    Allowing others to hurt and humiliate us.

4.    Ending up feeling miserable and depressed.

5.    Being anxious

The motive underlying non-assertion and submission is to please other people. It really works, as they end up losing respect for us, they become irritated, disgusted and feel pity for us. Our wants and feelings are not communicated, so discussion is restricted.

Factors in Being Assertive.

The most important thing is the carrying out of whatever it is that we have decided to do after carefully considering all the available options.

Aggressive and non-assertive behaviour are not concerned with clear communication and consideration of the rights of the other person.

Another factor in asserting ourselves is to realise that if we insist on protecting our own rights and feelings, we must grant others the right to protect their rights and feelings unless they behave in ways which make them impossible to communicate with.

The final factor in being assertive is to learn how to express positive emotions. These are expressions of kindness, gratitude, warmth, consideration, affection, and love. If we are kind to and considerate of others, they are likely to respond very positively towards us. If they help us, we should thank them in an appropriate way. With those we love, it is essential to speak and act in ways that make our love and affection quite clear to them. It is not sufficient for us to know that we love someone. Others cannot read our minds. We have to tell them how we feel and demonstrate our affection and love by touching them for, putting our arms around them and expressing how we feel about them.

People respond to these actions by liking the person more. Those who have these difficulties often maintain that they can’t change because they were brought up in homes where there was never any open display of these emotions. Wow such a background undoubtedly makes it harder, everyone can change his or her habits once they become aware of the necessity to do so.

Some believe that making a lot of money or taking a second job is a sufficient way to express the love and affection they feel. This really has little to do with feeling emotionally secure and with being loved.  The failure to display love and affection openly and directly is almost certainly the major cause of relationship and commitment breakdown.

In Summary Assertion Involves:

1.    Taking action once we have worked out how to solve a problem.

2.    Protecting our own rights and feelings and considering the rights and feelings of others.

3.    Displaying positive emotions openly and directly.

Six Types of Assertive Communications

Type 1: I want Statements.

These statements begin in the following ways:

1.    “I want you to do this or I want you not to do that“

2.    “I’d appreciate it if you would not do this“

3.    “I’d like it if you would do that or I’d prefer you did not do that“

Want statements do not guarantee that we will get our way or have our wishes Met, but they do inform the other person exactly what it is we want or do not want, or what it is that we want them to do. If there was conflict with ours, at least they know where we stand. If they express their wants, agreement may be reached on the solution.

Expressing one’s is not the same as making a non-negotiable demand such as, “be nice or I leave quote.

Type 2: I feel Statements.

In order to express our feelings clearly and directly, it is desirable not to use words like “upset “or “good “to cover all our feelings, but to specify quite clearly which emotion we are experiencing. So instead of saying “I’m upset “, we should state whether we are feeling angry, frustrated, annoyed, anxious, depressed, guilty, sorry for ourselves, or envious. Assertion of one emotion can also be quantified to show the degree of our anger, for example. By saying “I am a bit angry “, “I am very angry “, or “I am extremely angry”, we communicate our degree of upheaval more fully. Usually, a description of the behaviour that led to the emotional arousal accompanies “I feel “statements.

Type 3: Mixed Feelings Statements

Sometimes we are happy about one aspect of a situation but upset about another aspect. This is a conflict situation, which results in most people saying nothing, where it is desirable to get the unpleasant aspect fixed.

Type 4: Empathic Assertion.

Empathy is the capacity to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and imagine how he or she feels or thinks. Empathic a session involves a two-part statement, where the want or feel statement is preceded by an empathic statement:

“I know you are under a great deal of pressure right now, but I want you to help me with this urgent problem. “

“I know that you think our social life is not so hot, but I want to explain how it will improve as my habits of non-drinking get stronger. “

Empathic statements usually soften down the want of fuel statements because they indicate we understand the feelings of the other person, even if we don’t agree with them. The importance of empathic statements is that they increase the close relationship with the person. With strangers, it is of less importance than with those for whom we feel affection and love.

Type 5: Discrepancy Assertion

This is used where there is a discrepancy or conflict in what was promised and what was done, and we want it resolved. It is a three-part statement, where the promise is re-stated, the performance described, and a statement of our wants is put forward.

There is nothing aggressive in the way discrepancy assertion takes place. The concentration is on pointing out that there is a discrepancy between what was promised and what was actually done. There is no personal attack of the sort: “you’re not to be trusted and that gives me pain. You promised.” I straightforward description allows the other person to bring out facts to show that he or she had not broken a promise.  For example: “yes, I can see your point, but the children and I were having only a preliminary talk about where we would like to go. We intended to discuss the whole matter with you at the weekend and see what you wanted before a decision was made. Young Tom was so enthusiastic about going to the snow that he forgot that a decision had to involve you. “

Type 6: Assertion of Negative Feelings

This is an extension of type 5 to cover all situations that upset us in some way. This type involves 4 parts:

1.    Objectively describe what upsets us

2.    Describe how this affects our life

3.    Describe our feelings about this

4.    Describe what we want to happen.

We all have the right to react negatively, and it is most important that these negative feelings are not bottled up, because this usually means that we are not accepting things and submitting to situations that we do not like. Assertive action is essential to avoid the feelings of depression that results from bottling up intense anger.

Elements in assertiveness

1. Show respect for ourselves and for others

The aim here is to protect our basic rights and our feelings, we should never allow anyone to trample on these rights or to hurt our feelings so that we get angry, anxious, or otherwise upset. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that other people have rights and feelings, and we have to be careful to take account of these so that we do not hurt them. Respect for others should not be confused with difference to others because of their position, rank, status, high income, or social standing. We do not show any difference to anyone because of these factors. Respect for others is independent of status.

2. Be honest.

In order to be assertive, one has to be honest with himself and honest with those roundabout, because the purpose of being assertive is to help lead a successful life by solving problems and thereby raising the sense of self-esteem. Dishonesty cuts off affective communication, leads to failure and to a drop in self-esteem. Honesty involves assessing their wants and feelings accurately and expressing these ones, feelings, opinions, and preferences so that they don’t violate their own self-respect or put someone else down.

The next four aspects are concerned with whether assertive communication is appropriate. To be appropriate, assertive behaviour has to occur in the favourable location, at the right time and be put forward with just the right degree of firmness.

3. Select the right place.

Generally speaking, private places are better than public ones, but other assertive behaviour has to occur at meetings, gatherings, or parties. Public criticism also usually requires a public rebuttal if the criticism is unwarranted.

4. Choose the right time.

The timing of an assertive statements or action often decides whether it will be effective or not. The following principles can be used to guide the decision on when to act.

1.  We should act assertively the moment anyone tries to hurt or humiliate us or do otherwise trample on anyone’s rights. Whenever the event occurs, run quickly through the possible options and act immediately. For example, if we are criticised unfairly, it is wise to put the matter right as soon as possible.

2.  It is a waste of time acting assertively if the person with whom we are communicating does not have time to listen to us.

3.  It is undesirable to introduce important issues if the other person is tired, irritated by something else or is not feeling well. We have to consider their right not to be faced with important decisions when they are not at their best. The danger here, of course, is of putting things off and waiting for a “perfect time,” which never arrives. Being assertive means taking action and not putting things off.

4.  While the general rule is to act as quickly as possible, it is also essential to remain calm. Despite our best efforts not to get angry or upset in any way, sometimes a surge of anger may get out of control, and it is best to get this under control first, before acting assertively.

5.  Where the problem arises in a conversation between two people, it is usually better not to interrupt the other person. Listening carefully to the argument or point of view of the other person is an important part of being considerate of the rights of others. However, when the other person perceives our silence as an admission of weakness or of guilt, or when he or she dominates the whole scene, it is necessary to interrupt the flow and assert ourselves immediately.

Be assertive.

This means asserting yourself in such a way that our wants or feelings are conveyed to others clearly and unambiguously. Many people have developed habits that cause them to be indirect and to hint at their meaning rather than to stated in a way that will be understood.

Unless you state clearly and unambiguously what it is you want or what it is that you feel, the other person simply doesn’t know your requirements, unless he or she makes an inspired guess.

Adjust the degree of firmness.

The intensity of assertive statements should vary to suit the occasion.

Adjust the degree of assertiveness according to the relationship with the other person.

This depends on whether we are at work, with loved ones or with friends. Being assertive is just another piece of behaviour, which we are just to meet changing personal relationships, but the principles do not change. We have to protect our rights and feelings against violation in all situations. The way we assert these rights may vary slightly.

The appropriate frequency

There is a danger of people turning off if we are constantly saying “I want to quote or “I feel “because they see us as selfish and self-centered. In part, consideration of the rights and feelings of others and expression of positive emotions will lower the level of the statements. However, we need to get our priorities right and be assertive only about the important things in life. Quite often we can go along with the foibles and eccentricities of others, put up with irrational demands and be tolerant of their different lifestyles. However, when these lead to a violation of our rights, assertiveness becomes necessary.

Factors That Stop Assertive Behaviour

It is essential to replace angry aggressive behaviour and anxious submissive behaviour with calm assertive forms of action. This implies that our aim has to change from trying to win or from trying to please other people, to looking at situations as they arise and trying to do our best to cope with them. It demands a change of attitude from one where we see ourselves as in some sort of competition with others to one where we try to use our own skill and potential to the full, to do the best we can without comparing our efforts with others.

If we are to stop being aggressive and to stop being anxious, we need to think about why we get angry and aggressive and why we feel anxious. Unfortunately, we are choir many ideas beliefs and attitudes during our lives that are not in our interests, and these have to be changed if we are to cope. These are the ones that leads to anger and to anxiety.

Beliefs That Lead to Anger

When things seem to get out of control, we feel unsafe, insecure, and powerless to cope. This is a threat to our sense of well-being, which is followed by a rise in the level of anger and aggressive behaviour. The internal dialogue that leads to the anger and aggression is based upon a series of irrational, stupid beliefs, which are illustrated by the following:

1. “I have to win, because losing will prove I’m a failure “

There are two irrational statements here. We do not have to win all the time to be successful. Everybody loses at one time or another. If we lose. It does not prove we are failures. Also, it is being claimed here that “I have failed “it is the same thing as “I am a failure “, and this is obviously ridiculous. Many people fail, but this does not prove that they are failures. They may just have gone about things the wrong way or admitted taking account of some crucial factor. Those who start off by saying “I must win “or “I have to win “are backing themselves into a corner where, if they fail, they will feel terrible. If we start with a rational belief such as “it would be good to win here, so I better think carefully about what to do”, We stand a better chance of getting the right solution, of being successful and increasing our sense of achievement or self-esteem. If we fail, we have not backed ourselves into a corner because we have replaced quote I’ve got to win “by “it would be good to win “, which allows for the possibility of not winning.

2. “I’m in charge here, so I must not make mistakes.”

Variations of this are: “I’m a man, so I must not show any weakness or indecision “or “I’m the father, so I must get my way “, or “I’m the boss, so I mustn’t let these guys see that I don’t know everything about the job “or “I should be able to do this cooking because I’m a woman quote.

These are irrational statements. Just because a person is in charge, or because a person is a man or a woman or the boss, does not mean that he or she has to be, must be or should be able to do everything connected with that status or position.

3. “The world should be fair to me. If it is not, I can’t stand it.“

There is a magical, Alice in Wonderland, irrational quality about this. There is no reason the world or anyone in it must, should, or ought to be fair to anyone. The only way to ensure that people are fair to us is to calmly insist on our right to be treated fairly in a particular situation or on a particular occasion. If we cannot change a particular situation then we have to admit that too, and not collapse or fail because of it.

“What right have you to say to me? You should be more tolerant.”

The problem here is that instead of focusing on our own rights and working out a way to protect them, we are challenging are right that the other person has, to express his or her rights and opinions. Basically, people become aggressive and try to deny other people their rights because they think they Will lose if they are not aggressive. All the situations discussed contain at least one irrational statement built around the concept of need.

1.         “I have to win, because losing will prove I’m a failure“ equals “I need to win, because if I don’t that will prove I am a failure. “

2.         “I’m in charge here, so I must not make mistakes“ equals “I need to show them I know my work, because I’m in charge, so I need to get everything right.“

3.         “The world should be fair to me.“ equals “I need the world to reward me for my efforts. “

4.         “What right have you to say that to me?“ equals ” need your love and affection, so you must not say hurtful things to me. “. equals “I need the world to reward me for my efforts.“

5.         “What right have you to say that to me?“ equals “I need your love and affection, so you must not say hurtful things to me. “

All these internal dialogue’s contain expressions such as should, must, have to, and need. On closer examination, there is no valid reason why people should, must, have to, or need to, do what we want them to. These phrases are signs of emotional dependency and emotional dependency is a sign of immaturity. Young children may need to be loved and cherished, but adults can only want to be loved and cherished and take these steps to achieve these ends. Similarly, there is no valid reason why we should, must, I have to, or need to do anything because someone wants us to all because we feel we must. Internal dialogues that contain messages such as these get us into trouble, because coping successfully needs independent thought and action, and these phrases are the ones used by dependent people.

Submission or Non-Assertion

The causes of submissive, non-assertive behaviour:

1. Trying to please or fear of displeasing other people

People who believe that success depends upon pleasing others and running their lives accordingly are constantly on guard against doing something that will display the other person. This is a seductive position because it it can be claimed that it is an unselfish way of behaving, which always considers the rights of other people. This is not true. Because in denying our own rights while making a decision, we never give the other person any idea of where we stand or what we feel or want. Thus, we affectively stifle free and full communication about many issues.

Others respond to submissive people by feeling sorry for them, also to despise them for their weakness., And to become irritated with them because they never come clean and say how they feel or what they want out of life. Submissive behaviour may avoid conflict, but it really, if ever, solves an important problem satisfactorily. One of the main aims in life is to preserve or build up our self-respect and our self-esteem. It will not be achieved by submissive behaviour.

Fear of displeasing others is also based on irrational needs for safety and security. The use of words like should, have to, must, or two, and need is quite common.

2.  Fear of rejection or retaliation

The common element in this is deciding to do nothing when something should be done or deciding to do something other than what needs to be done, because someone else might reject us or retaliate by becoming aggressive, angry, moody, or giving us the silent treatment.

The result of submissive behaviour of this sort is to stifle any remote chance of free and open discussion. Often, we make mistakes about how the other person might react to us if we do a cert ourselves.

3. Mistaken sense of responsibility

The problem here is mistakenly believing that if we do something, the other person will feel hurt and that would be our fault.

4. Feelings of guilt

5. Mistaken believes in perfect solutions.

There is a common belief that there are perfect solutions where nobody feels hurt or upset in any way, and that if they do it is our fault. Perfect solutions are not common and provided we have given careful thought to the problem, considered all its aspects and given thought to the rights of others as Wellers to our own rights. Then we have done the best we can. It is the process if in the process we say no to a request for help or stop someone from doing what they want we have done our best. If that someone feels hurt, it maybe because they were asking too much of us, resuming our relationship or otherwise expecting too much. If you say no and give reasons for your refusal, you have no reason to feel bad if they get upset. This may be less than a perfect solution, but it may well be the only one that takes all the factors into consideration.

6. Wanting to keep the hidden benefits of submission.

The payoff for submissive people is that they do not make decisions. If one does not make decisions he cannot be blamed for any unfortunate or unforeseen outcome, so the blame can always be put on someone else. Being assertive brings other dangers with it, which can be avoided by submissiveness.

1.  If we are assertive, we will often come up against someone who is equally assertive of a different viewpoint. Where there could be a compromise in this case, submissiveness means that the others point of view will prevail, even if it is wrong. But it does avoid conflict.

2.  If we are submissive, we can avoid the danger faced by assertive people who put forward views or opinions that can be shown to be wrong. If someone criticises us, and we believe him or her to be wrong, we lay ourselves open to being proved wrong if we assert ourselves.

7. Manipulating others to make decisions so we hide our true feelings about the situation.

8. Fooling Ourselves about our feelings

Submissive people often work out that something is wrong and that they should do something about it, and then talk themselves out of it by saying “well, I’m probably wrong, so I’ll say nothing. “

Dependency and Need for Approval.

Lack of assertion reflects a state of dependency. Submissive people are dependent on others for praise, for gratitude and for rewards and are frightened of losing love and affection. They are externally directed instead of internally directed. Assertive people work out what to do, taking the rights of others into account, and then proceed to act on their decision without trying to please others and without worrying about how others will react. They are internally directed and emotionally independent. Their reward comes from knowing that they have done their best. If someone else says they have done a respectable job, this external reward is a bonus. We all like these bonuses and we all want them, and the more we get the better, but internally directed emotionally independent people do not need external reinforcement.

The effect of high need for approval

1.  The more we try to please others, the less we succeed.

2.  The need for approval is based on and leads to uncritical acceptance of the “rules” of society, and this leads to problems.

3.  Others begin to feel sorry for, to resent and to despise those who are showing signs of dependency.

The five steps to stop being dependent.

Step 1: concentrate on the problem that faces us instead of worrying about how awful it is, how upsetting it is or how unfair it appears.

Step 2: stop trying to please other people and stop worrying about their reactions to us.

Step 3: when we have worked out what to do, simply do it.

Step 4: if we fail, say “stiff cheese, I’ll try again. “

Step 5: protect our rights and feelings every time they are endangered.