Life roles; how to have them serve and support you by bringing the subconscious or unspoken into the conscious and communicated
So how do you begin to shape your life roles so they serve and support you? The biggest way is to bring what is usually the subconscious or unspoken into the conscious and communicated. There are many approaches you could use to do this, but as it is an emotionally charged topic it needs to be handled in a delicate and sensitive way using assertiveness, otherwise it could do more damage than good.
Remember, assertiveness is not about winning or getting your own way – it is about working together to find a mutually agreeable solution in such a way that it respects not only your rights but the rights of others.
For a recap on our inherent rights take a look below:
“I have the right to state my own needs and set my own priorities as a person, independent from any roles that I may assume in my life.” This right recognizes our existence beyond the roles we inhabit (whether they be that of a husband, wife, mother or father) and accepts we have priorities beyond the realms of those roles. We are all, at our core, individuals and this right highlights we should be treated as such. In truth, to have priorities for ourselves outside of the roles we inhabit is healthy as it promotes a sense of autonomy and individuality.
“I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.” This is one of our most basic rights and yet one that is violated all too often. Absolutely all of us deserve to be treated with respect.
“I have the right to express my feelings.” However we may sometimes feel we were all born with worth and your feelings are just as valuable as anyone else’s. In expressing your feelings to others you are subconsciously communicating you positive self-worth. Indeed, the very act of others listening to your feelings is validating and may even contribute towards improving your self-esteem.
“I have the right to express my opinions and values.” We all have the right to our own opinions, beliefs and values. This may sound simple, perhaps even obvious, but all too often others try to impress their opinions, beliefs and values upon us, negating our right to our own opinions, beliefs and values in the process. When they refuse to allow us the freedom to choose our own opinions, beliefs and values they are violating our rights on a fundamental level. If this right is violated frequently and over a prolonged period of time it can lower our self-esteem and can even lead to depression in some severe cases. If we are to maintain a healthy sense of self this right must be protected.
“I have the right to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for myself.” When others say no and yes for us they are making decisions for us based upon their priorities and values. It is our fundamental right to make our own decisions based upon our own priorities and values. When others violate this right it disempowers us, and this silently communicates to others, and to ourselves, that we are incapable of making decisions – which is a complete fallacy! If this right is violated over time it can reduce our self-esteem and so it is critical we assert our right to say no and yes for ourselves.
“I have the right to make mistakes and forgive myself.” Every person without exception makes mistakes and this right reinforces the right to make those mistakes and forgive ourselves for doing so, understanding that no one is perfect. We also have the right to feel comfortable in admitting our mistakes to others.
“I have the right to change my mind.” Each of us has the right to change our mind no matter what the circumstance or reason.
“I have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ and ask for more information.” Usually when we don’t understand we simply need further clarification. This right enables us to feel comfortable in admitting to when we don’t understand and feel confident in asking for more information.
“I have the right to ask for what I want.” This right highlights that our wants are just as valid as anyone else’s. We have every right to make reasonable requests of others and ask for what we want.
“I have the right to decline responsibility for other peoples problems.” Generally our own problems are enough to contend with without others imposing their problems onto us also. If others exclaim their problems to us we are within our rights to refuse responsibility for them. Depending on the situation we may not only take responsibility for others problems but try to rescue them too. However if this is the case, it is worth remembering that when we try to rescue others we may, in fact, be serving to disempower them.
“I have the right to deal with others without being dependent on them for approval.” This right reminds us that we do not need to seek the approval of others when dealing with them and frees us to deal with people according to our own set of values and beliefs.
In addition we have the right to be either miserable or cheerful no matter who we are with or wherever we are. We have the right to behave how we feel without having to act for other peoples benefit.
Talking assertively about our life roles
As with all assertive communication, there are four main stages, these being:
There are four essential points to assertive communication. The first is to acknowledge what the other person has said. This helps them feel understood and makes them more receptive to what you have to say. For example, you could start using statements like ‘I understand you feel…’ or ‘ I understand you think…’.
The second is to state the facts surrounding the situation. When doing this, it is important that all divisive and biased language is avoided. Likewise, it is crucial to stick to very neutral and simple language which states an accurate portrayal of the facts. For example, ‘you have said as your wife you expect me to do all the housework’.
The third point is to state what impact the situation has had on you. This could be something like ‘I find your expectation of my role as your wife unbalanced and it has made me feel overwhelmed and undervalued as your partner’, for example.
Notice how I avoided words such as very and really in this example? As always, it is critical to avoid divisive language which could encourage the other person to become defensive. Naturally, the statement of impact will be different according to the situation and the impact it has had upon you personally.
The fourth point to remember is to ask for what you want. When asking for what you want it is critical to make your request reasonable, as then it is most likely to be considered and taken seriously. For example ‘I would like for us to discuss and agree upon a more balanced expectation of my role as your wife which reflects an equal partnership’.
Then work towards finding areas of your life role expectations you can agree upon. Once these are in place list the expectations you disagree on down on paper. Then negotiate the balanced division of these tasks, such as hovering or washing up. Remember these conversations might be emotionally charged by subconscious conditioning so always remember to speak calmly and kindly, with a positive outlook and end in mind.
If no compromise can be agreed upon and you feel very strongly the others expectations are unreasonable and / or violate your rights (as listed above) you may want to reflect on whether your roles are compatible with one another and whether you still wish to enter in to them.
Having said this you might first want to try to work through these conflicting expectations together, taking care to remain kind, sensitive, respectful and assertive throughout. If you find you are making no headway discussing it together assertively, you could seek counseling, in this case pre marital counseling.
Alternatively, if you are already in a role in relation to the person, you may wish to seek mediation in the form of a councilor to overcome these conflicting expectations, many of which can lead to long term high conflict in your relationship.
Would you now feel confident discussing life roles with friends and family assertively? Does the idea of such conversations make you apprehensive? Do you have your very own tips to approach sensitive conversations? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned – next week I’ll be discussing the fun keepsakes of life role certificates, how to successfully juggle multiple life roles and the process of individualization.