Decrease Anxiety by Knowing Your Interpersonal Rights

Community Member

One reason some people may become anxious or stressed is because they have trouble being assertive. Assertiveness encompasses many behaviors and skills including expressing one's opinion, making requests, setting boundaries, and standing up for oneself. Part of the problem for some people is that they don't realize that they do have interpersonal rights. Interpersonal rights are those expectations we need to have in order to have healthy relationships with others. In this post we are going to discuss who is most vulnerable when it comes to having these rights violated. We are also going to list these interpersonal rights so that you can feel more empowered in your relationships.

Are there people who are more susceptible to being mistreated by others?

There are certain personality traits, life events, and psychological disorders which can make some people more prone to lacking assertiveness. These people may be more at risk for "doormat" treatment because they do not realize they have rights within their relationships. These populations at risk may include:

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics

If you look up the common characteristics of adult children of alcoholics you are going to find traits such as: May have been abused physically, emotionally, and/or sexually, have difficulty being direct, have difficulty asking for what they need, and ultimately they may have great problems with being assertive. The underlying cause for some of these possible traits is that there may have been ambiguous boundaries growing up. Some adult children of alcoholics never realized they had any interpersonal rights to begin with.

  • The Highly Sensitive Person

In previous posts I have described some of the characteristics of the highly sensitive person. Some of these traits include feeling hurt easily, avoidance of conflict, and great anxiety. Assertiveness may not be the strong point of the highly sensitive person as they may fear other's potential reactions. It may be extremely difficult for this type of personality to risk criticism or rejection by standing up for their rights.

  • People with Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is defined as the "intense, persistent fear of being scrutinized and negatively evaluated by others in social or performance situations." The person having social anxiety disorder may be extremely fearful of expressing their wishes to others, setting personal boundaries, or asking that others treat them with respect.

  • Anyone who has been abused emotionally, physically or sexually

If you have been abused in any of these ways and particularly in childhood by someone in a position of power, you may continue to have problems with both trust and boundary setting well into adulthood. How does one know what their interpersonal rights are if they were never respected in the first place?

Know Your Interpersonal Rights:

Realizing that you do have, and are worthy of these rights, can help you to become more assertive. Subsequently, assertiveness can decrease your anxiety. Knowledge is power. Know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in all your relationships.

You have the right within your relationships to:

  • Say no to a request.

  • Change your mind.

  • Offer no reasons or excuses to justify your behavior.

  • Make a request of others.

  • Choose with whom and when you will have sexual relations.

  • Set our own personal priorities.

  • Express your feelings.

  • Ask that others treat you with dignity and respect.

  • Express when someone has violated your personal boundaries.

  • State your personal boundaries (I will do this but I will not do that).

  • Disagree with another's perspective or opinion.

  • Ask that others listen to your perspective.

  • Choose how much time you wish to give to a relationship.

  • Ask that other people compromise.

  • Be alone if you wish.

  • Make mistakes and take responsibility for them.

  • Cease or limit interactions with people we deem to be toxic to our mental and physical wellness.

  • Ask someone to correct a mistake which affects us.

  • Take the time we need to de-stress or regain our mental and physical wellness.

  • Set limits on excessive demands of others.

Obviously this is just a start. There are many other interpersonal rights we can include in this list. Please share yours in a comment to this post.

For more information about how to be assertive please refer to the following Health Central articles: