The Rights You Forget You Have

Here is how to protect them in all of your relationships.

Social change and personal success are both driven by the same unseen source: people who decide to exercise their rights and who thus bring about the best individual and collective results.

“Stand up for yourself and for what you believe in.”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“If you want something, just go for it.”

We see and hear these messages in many contexts and since you’re reading this article, I think it is safe to infer that this is the type of attitude and behavior that you would like to master in your life.

But where do you start? What does it mean to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in? What does it take to build up the determination and courage to take the steps that bring you closer to your goals? How can you make sure that your life’s path maintains the course that you want it to have and that you won’t get lost while pursuing secondary directions that others have traced for you?

It may all sound very complex and overwhelming, but I believe the main strategy can rest on two conceptual pillars: Assertiveness and Critical Thinking.

In short, it’s about activating the right mindset and building a reasonable action plan that can guide you in both your personal and professional life toward your most significant goals.

Individual rights are at the center of this strategy because the way you express yourself and the goals you end up pursuing are connected to the manner in which you understand to allow yourself to be who you want to be instead of simply following predetermined or externally-determined social paths.

This process may come naturally to some people or may require sustained intentional effort for others until the person starts seeing the desired results. Either way, I believe that an intentional activation of strategy is the best way in which we can ensure that our path goes in the direction that we need it to go to maximize the positive outcome in personal and professional contexts.

Here are the main elements of the strategy that you can implement to help you protect your rights in all of your relationships.

Activate an Assertive Mindset

It all starts with how you perceive yourself and others, and with the way you relate to everyone else and the world.

People are equals. There is value in yourself and in others. You are deserving, and so are others. You can occupy your own place in the world without overstepping the boundaries set by those around you and you can also define the limits of your own social space.

Primarily, an assertive mindset is a mindset that entertains non-passive and non-aggressive attitudes. The principles above illustrate those attitudes.

How an assertive mindset helps you protect your rights in the long run:

You won’t allow passive attitudes to block you from reaching your goals (if you start your journey with a primarily passive mindset).

You won’t try to reach your goals by infringing on the rights of others and maybe even irremediably hurt some of your own interests in the process (if you start your journey with a primarily aggressive mindset).

Know Your Rights

This may seem redundant, but you may be surprised how many people intend to protect their interests and rights without actually knowing what those rights are.

Whether we are referring to basic human rights, legal rights, or the rights we have when it comes to communication and social contexts, we need to start by understanding the main reasonable expectations that can be applied to those fields and settings.

Some of these rights may be officially listed and agreed upon by the majority of a community — local or global, while others may be self-generated based on the assertive principles that determine the mindset I mentioned above.

How knowing your rights helps you protect them in the long run:

You will start identifying contexts where there is a potential for right infringement and you will be able to prepare for the optimized management of that situation.

You won’t claim rights that are based on unreasonable expectations.

Analyze Your Rights

The rights you claim not only need to be based on assertive principles — non-passive, and non-aggressive, but they also need to be valid from the point of logic. They need to be generated by rational thought processes (as rational as the limitations of the human mind allow).

Critical Thinking skills mainly come into play in this phase of the strategy.

How critical analysis of one’s rights helps protect them in the long run:

A critical analysis of your rights can ensure not only the valid content of the claimed right or expectation but it can also help manage the effects of flawed thinking patterns, such as cognitive biases, and can solve cognitive dissonance when it occurs.

Communicate Your Rights

Knowing which rights are yours to protect is not enough. The assertive mindset needs to find a social expression that properly communicates your attitudes and intentions to the other person.

Verbal and non-verbal communication is crucial in asserting your rights.

How assertive communication helps protect your rights in the long run:

You will be able to openly express your opinions, desires, and needs.

Your behaviors will reflect high self-confidence and self-esteem levels.

Others will understand what it is that you expect in a social interaction and they can directly address that expectation.

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.

Protecting your rights is intrinsically linked to exercising them. There is no point in you knowing all the elements of a successful strategy to manage your individual rights if you don’t get to experience the results of implementing said strategy.

Identify and select those contexts in which the protection of your rights is directly connected to your significant personal and professional goals. Make sure you work toward the desired results in those key areas of your life. Some results may be exactly what you want to achieve, while others may be reasonable compromises. As long as your self-esteem and feeling of self-worth are not eroded, these are all acceptable solutions.

How exercising your rights helps protect them in the long run:

The more you claim and exercise the protection of your rights, the better the solutions that trigger the desired results.

Gradually, this process will become easier for you — especially if your starting point was a passive mindset, which will encourage you to activate it more often.

BONUS. Respect the Rights of Others

We cannot gain much support and respect from others unless we show them this is a mutual attitude that we are willing to project toward them as well.

That is one of the keys of an assertive attitude: Claim your rights without infringing on the rights of others.

If this principle would guide most communities, we would see far better individual and social results than the ones that we are seeing at this point in our global evolution.

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