from the children for a while or develop a career, the right to have a
social life independent of their husband, a right to say no without
feeling guilty, etc. (Bloom, Coburn, & Pearlman, 1975). More
importantly, perhaps, the consciousness-raising groups encouraged
and coached each intimidated and dominated group member. Every
small step in each life was discussed and practiced in these groups:
how to get a job and how to share more equally child care duties,
cooking, cleaning, financial decisions, etc. Remarkable changes were
made in many families. Some men resisted but most profited from a
happier, more confident, more interesting, and more self-sufficient
The next step in human liberation flowed naturally: several books
on assertiveness training appeared, starting with Alberti and Emmons
(1970) who wrote, "If you must go through life inhibited, bowing down
to the wishes of others, holding your own desires inside you, or
conversely, destroying others in order to get your way, your feeling of
personal worth will be low." Assertion training is not just a method for
overcoming insecurities and submissiveness. It is a philosophy of life
involving self-respect, self-confidence, self-direction, and meeting
one's own needs and values without offending anyone's dignity or
violating anyone else's rights (see method #3 in chapter 13). That
sounds perfectly reasonable and harmless, doesn't it? So, what keeps
us from standing up for our rights? We have our excuses.
Just like the Asch and Milgram studies of conformity, Moriarty
(1975) documented how reluctant we are to confront a person who
offends us or is inconsiderate of us. Only 5% of college students
studying for an exam insisted that a neighbor turn down loud music.
Another 15% asked the neighbor nicely once to turn it down (which
did no good). But 80% said nothing and put up with the disruption.
Likewise, loud neighbors in a library were asked to be quiet by only
2%, 23% moved away, and 75% simply endured the disturbance.
Most of us just don't want to make waves. What are our excuses?
You will remember that we tend to have excuses for not living up
to our values (chapter 3), for procrastinating (chapter 4), for being
hostile to others (chapter 7) and now for being passive. Here are
several common excuses for not asserting ourselves (Bower & Bower,
1976). See if the shoe fits:
"Maybe I'm overreacting--I'll be quiet." You have a right to
expect quiet in a library or movie or dorm or your own house,
so admit your frustration to yourself and firmly insist on quiet.
You have lots of rights.
"Everybody has rights." Yes, but their rights end where your
rights begin. This comment is just an excuse for not confronting
the aggressive, thoughtless person. Stand up for your rights.
"Oh, well, it won't happen again." This may be true but it is an
excuse. You should be assertive (a) for your own self-respect
and (b) to help the offender be more considerate of others.