(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check this webpage)

While boarding a bus from Delhi to Panipat, when my one foot was on the first step of the bus and second foot on the ground, the bus conductor interrupted and asked me, ‘where are you to go?’ I said, “Panipat”. Hearing this, he ordered me very humiliatingly, “Get down, I said, get down at once, I won’t allow any passenger to get down from the bus before Chandigarh.” I replied, “Why brother, all the buses halt at Panipat?” “But, I won’t allow, you get down just now”; the conductor retorted quite disrespectfully.

Well, everyone knows how dark it prevails at 6 PM in India in December. So, considering the awkward situation, I said to him very politely, “See brother, it is getting dark, there is no other bus for Panipat here; so let me board this bus.” He retorted still more aggressively, “You are getting down or not?” I felt bad and said politely but assertively, “See Mr. Conductor, I won’t get down on my own. You have three options. 1. You let me in respectfully; 2. You get me down forcefully; 3. You push and throw me out”.
Stunned and speechless, he allowed me to board the bus. (Yeah, the passengers in the bus, didn’t react at all and kept on watching the show.)

From this self-related incidence, I want to insist upon you all that you, too, can assert your needs, opinion and rights positively without hurting yourselves or others; exactly like this writer, who, while exercising her right to board the bus; neither humiliated the conductor, nor trampled her self-respect by begging before him or letting him overpower/dominate her disgracefully; but still, was successful in asserting her need and right while maintaining her own as well as his honor.

We all can do this, still we don’t do it, nor do we ever think this way. The above few sentences have been highlighted to stress that in any communication with your seniors/elders or juniors/youngsters, it is vital to keep each other’s honor. But, it’s not as easy, as it seems to be. It is a skill which has to be learnt and practiced; but how?

We generally don’t know how to express our views/needs or assert our rights. It must be evident by the above incidence that stating your view/need assertively is a great skill as well as an art. We answer even very simple & straight questions put by others in a way as if they were our enemies. Or let me state in a different way; many young people don’t talk to their known-unknown, friends or even close relatives politely and with etiquettes; (like the dialogue between the conductor and me). It is very sad that we don’t even realize it and without our wanting, we spoil even the best of our relations. Many a times, we may be even deprived of our job or feel humiliated at the hands of our colleagues or boss.

Often, we can state our view or need in the following ways:
• Assertively: Talking confidently and treating others respectfully without hurting and humiliating others or yourself.(just like I talked to the conductor in the above-mentioned incidence).
• Aggressively: Putting your view aggressively as if in a fighting tone and hurting & humiliating others (The way the bus conductor talked to me.)
• Submissively: Presenting ourselves fearfully, hesitantly and embarrassedly, hurting, debasing and humiliating ourselves, (As if we are begging mercy from them).

My young friends, I call you to choose for yourself the way you like to talk and hear. But, it shouldn’t be like, you yourself, talk in humiliating tone while expect others to talk to you courteously and respectfully. It is not at all possible. Yeah, it can be just the opposite (just like, it happened with me).

For you, it’s rather more crucial and urgent to state your views and needs politely but assertively, because you are to either appear for an interview, or, if already in employment, you need to keep up good relations, otherwise a fear of being expelled from the job, will always be hovering over you; or if you are in some business; if you don’t treat your clients politely and respectfully, they would go anywhere else to purchase the things and so you can’t extend your business; if it is your own work and you don’t treat the customers well, you can’t flourish much. In mutual relations also, you can’t maintain them without this skill. So, it is all the more essential to learn and honor this art and skill.

Assertiveness implies:
• Express your needs , views or opinion politely while upholding your self-respect, honor , dignity and rights
• While communing with others, take care of their self-respect, honor and rights, too;
• Talk to others respectfully while expressing your wish, need or opinion;
• Listening the person in front of you carefully before speaking yourself;
• Not to hurt others even with your gestures;
• Keeping your pitch and voice restrained while speaking;
• Giving sufficient time and opportunity to the other person;
• Displaying your disagreement or even displeasure gracefully, if we don’t like other’s opinion or views;
• Saying ‘no’ to other’s demand or request (which we can’t give them) respectfully by showing our inability to do so;
• We have the right to differ or disagree with our elders/younger’s, seniors/juniors; equals or even the authority figures; but politely and with full grace.

Assertiveness doesn’t imply that you:
• Talk to others by degrading and humiliating yourself, thereby hurting your own self-respect;
• Talk to others egoistically;
• Don’t give sufficient time or opportunity to others to express their opinion or side;
• Exploit other’s rights or don’t give any importance to them;
• Talk to others insultingly;
• Talk loudly, discourteously or humiliatingly;
• Not defend or use your own right;
• Exploit/snatch others rights while safeguarding your right;
• Damage public property by throwing stones or setting anything on fire or insult others for the sake of your demands; while safeguarding your rights
• Be a yes man, unreasonably;
• Flatter and try to please others;

Assertive communication also doesn’t imply that you let others:
• Humiliate you;
• Hurt you;
• Snatch/take away your right;
• Treat you badly;
• You may not say ‘No’ even if you want;
• You may not save your self-respect;
• You may keep accepting the wrong, unjust and useless orders or requests for the sake of respect to the persons superior to you in status, age or relation. In such a situation, you must use your right to say ‘No’ and oppose them.

Thus, by now you must have understood the meaning and implication of stating your views, demands or needs assertively, i.e.
‘Expressing your views or needs positively, respectfully and firmly (assertively) while maintaining your own self-respect, honor and rights; to refuse politely but firmly other’s wrong & unjust order, request, or threat; expressing or stating your opinions, needs  and views unhesitatingly but politely without any fear, hesitation, begging, flattering or the like.’

Even though it’s understood, it is not as easy to follow, as it seems to be. It would be better if you have some training from a good psychotherapist in your area. Practice it and finally try your level best to apply it with all your willpower throughout your life.

If you can learn, practice and apply this art of communicating yourself and listening to others politely and respectfully by considering yours and others rights as equal, you will automatically be empowered with self confidence and gifted with better and sweetened relationship with everyone.