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"Sure I remember our lunch plans. 1:00 right? Well, I guess I can make it for 12:00 if I change my doctor’s appointment. You want to meet on your side of town. Uh, okay, but it might take me a little longer to get there. Pick you up? All right, give me time to clean off the front seat and I’ll get you as soon as I can. Chinese food instead? Sure, whatever."

I wonder how many yesses I’ve said when I wanted to say no. Or how many times I may have put others in that position. Relationships bring a great deal into our lives, but they take a lot of work to navigate.

It’s can be tough to negotiate different needs, communication styles and choices. The best relationships I’ve had are those that feel like they’re win-win. Though it’s no easy task to be fair to everyone.

It’s easy get caught up in patterns of responses, based on assumptions about ourselves in relation to others, and the habits we develop based on those assumptions. For example, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “going along to get along”. We may want to be thought of as a nice person, and agree to something at our own expense. We then run the risk of being nice to everyone but ourselves.

We can make the choice to put ourselves higher on our list of who to treat well. We can work to find a balance between kindness to ourselves and kindness to others. Different relational situations call for different kinds of responses. If we work on asserting our rights, we expand our range of potential responses and maximize the probability of win-win relationships.

We can get caught up in relational patterns that unintentionally impose on others’ rights. We may be concerned that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will. That can lead to pushing a little harder for our own needs without truly taking others into account.

I know how difficult it can be to not get exactly what we want. There is a payoff, however, to letting go of total control of an outcome. Allowing for more give and take and compromises has led to happier relationships in all facets of my life and to solutions to situations I might not otherwise have thought of.

I also find it helpful to make sure that my body and voice are consistent with the kind of relationship messages I want to convey. If I have had a pattern of not asserting my rights, I may be used to coming across passively – using as little energy, space and volume as possible. This can give the unintended message that I don’t deserve and don’t expect to get what I am asking for.

If I’ve had a pattern of pushing for my rights, I may come across more aggressively than I intended. I may use more energy and volume than is needed, unintentionally infringing on someone else’s space.

There are situations where passive and aggressive communication styles may be needed. However, it is helpful to have the option of an assertive response. In this way, we can use just enough energy, volume, and space to acknowledge our rights without imposing on others’ rights. We can work to balance everybody’s needs, avoid conflicts and build more and more satisfying win-win relationships.

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