Our other articles point out the importance of asserting yourself in this context: teamwork, job burnouts, attitudes, and dealing with difficult people. This article explains what a claim is actually, contrasts the claim with aggression (with which it is often confused) and submission, and why it is a quality.
Claim – What is it?
We have seen several definitions of claims. This is our favorite:
The demand is to speak honestly about your thoughts, feelings and desires, while considering others.
This is what I think / feel / want … and (at least implicit) How are you
Sounds pretty good to us! Honesty. Respect yourself and others. Considering its inherently controversial qualities, it is surprising that more people are not firm.
Here’s another one (albeit more than a definition):
Claims take responsibility for resolving interpersonal problems through direct action and communication.
When you claim, you take responsibility, you solve problems and you are straight (instead of guilty or confused).
The following definitions are probably the most common, but our least favorite:
Claim is a way of acting that strikes a balance between two extremes: aggression and submission.
This one is not entirely accurate. Instead of balancing, the claim is actually two sides of the same coin – the aggression and the deposit option.
In fact, aggression or submission is the consequence of not being firm.
- A claim is made in an abusive or unfavorable way
- Sensitive to the rights, thoughts, feelings or desires of others
- Trying to get results or reactions through intimidation
- Creates a scene of losing dominance, which can lead to resentment and violence
Submission (or inactivity):
- When giving up one’s rights, one surrenders to the needs of others
- An inability to express your thoughts, feelings or desires
- Feeling guilty when you express a desire, as if you are forcing it
- Destroys self-esteem and confidence (and makes you angry)
If you have read our article on the nature of attitudes, you will see a parallel between negative / neutral / positive attitudes and aggressive / loyal / loyal attitudes. They are related.
Here’s a quick way to identify true claims (between yourself and others) versus submission or aggression:
That’s what I think … that’s what I feel … that’s what I want
Your thoughts are irrational … your feelings are not counted … your demands are not important
The submission says:
It doesn’t matter what I think … it doesn’t matter what I feel … it doesn’t count what I want
When people are not strong, they will be attracted to aggression or submission depending on personality type or mood.
And often the same person becomes the gap between aggression and submission … or works to combine the two:
- Aggressive verbs: Expressing anger in a secret way, for example, “forgetting” about another’s request or planning revenge.
- Manipulation: Others act as victims or martyrs to feel sorry for them or to take care of them.
The virtues of perseverance
Claims allow us to:
- Express yourself honestly
- Consider how others feel
- Feel good about yourself
- To take responsibility
- Discuss effectively
- Go for a win-win resolution
All obvious qualities and positive values! Why, then, are so many of us not so firm?
Well, the most common reason is fear of rejection. And this is not an unreasonable fear. In fact, some people may not like what we are claiming. That is, they may not like us (at least that aspect of us, at the time).
To live in peace with that disagreement requires quite a healthy self-esteem. A discussion of the need for self-esteem is beyond the scope of this article. One thing we can say here …
Perseverance is an essential element of one’s self-esteem. The more honestly we express ourselves, the better we will feel about ourselves.
A word of caution: Claiming is not a guarantee that you will get the feedback or results you want!
There is no such guarantee. But – in addition to all the benefits mentioned above – there is a much better chance of getting those results than claiming aggression or submission. At least in the long run and without the inherent negative feedback of those options.
But one should Always To be firm?
We maintain that you are always firm … in your thinking. But, not necessarily in the voice of this thought. Situations can be very good where the consequences of a vocal claim can be quite negative. For example, when an aggressive person in authority is treated or when violence is threatened.
Sometimes, maintaining silence is the wisest and strongest step. The actions or statements of others are not sanctioned, but silence … or, perhaps, acknowledgment. Something like this: I hear what you are saying; Without adding: I agree.
[See our other articles on this subject to gauge your current level of assertiveness and to learn how to do it.]