Assertiveness and Your Personal Bill of Rights

Assertiveness is a form of communication in which needs, feelings, and opinions are clearly stated with respect for oneself and the other person(s) involved in the interaction. Being assertive allows others to know what you want/need thereby making it easier for them to support you. Assertive communication differs from passive communication, in which people avoid expressing or speaking up for themselves, and aggressive communication, in which people do not take into consideration the feelings of others when expressing themselves and use blaming or accusing language. Many people confuse aggressive communication with being assertive. One of the significant differences is the words used when expressing oneself, namely, using “I” statements as opposed to “You” statements. To highlight this difference consider the following two statements: “You never listen to me!” versus “I feel ignored”.

Choosing your words wisely is, however, only one component of being assertive. More important is believing that you actually have certain basic rights as a human being that include expressing yourself. Many people seem to have forgotten or may have never been told that these basic human rights exist. We, therefore, thought it might be helpful to review some of these rights. By no means is this an exclusive list. We encourage you to consider if there are any rights that we may not have included that are important to you. Reminding yourself of these rights can validate your own needs, opinions, and boundaries with others and, in doing so, make it easier to assert and express yourself. As always, we invite your thoughts, opinions, and questions.

Personal Bill of Rights
I have the right to express all my feelings, positive or negative.
I have the right to ask for what I want
I have the right to determine my own priorities
I have the right to not be responsible for other people’s behaviours, actions, feelings, or problems.
I have the right to say “no” to others without feeling guilty.
I have the right to take time to slow down and think.
I have the right to be uniquely myself or “my own person”.
I have the right to say, “I don’t know”.
I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings
I have the right to be in a non-abusive relationship.
I have the right to make mistakes
I have the right to be safe
I have the right to put myself first.
I have the right to dignity and respect
I have the right to love and be loved
I have the right to be human-not perfect
I have the right to my own personal space and time
I have the right to privacy
I have the right to be angry and protest if I am treated unfairly.
I have the right to earn and control my own money
I have the right to grow and change, including changing my mind.
I have the right to decide if and when, I choose to forgive my mistakes or anyone else’s mistakes
I have the right to be happy.

Philippa & Kerry


  1. Excellent advice for both at home in my personal relationship, but also in my work environment when working for a difficult boss. Thank you!

  2. Great article very helpful.

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