had just received the third pink slip
in two weeks from the lab that said my
payment was passed due. Over three times
I had called and my insurance company
had assured me that the lab work was covered
and that they would mail out a check that
afternoon. This time, when I finally got
a representative on the telephone, I was
polite but firm. I said that I wanted
the problem taken care of immediately,
and I wrote down her name and the supervisor's
name. It was time to get even more assertive.
assertiveness gotten a bad rap, however,
among the chronically ill? Is it assumed
that we won't have the energy or stamina
to fight all of the battles that we will
face? When we do talk to someone in customer
service, we are rarely taken absolutely
seriously. After all, isn't it just the
drugs that make us impatient and nit-picky
about all of this insurance stuff? Has
anyone ever brushed off your assertiveness
simply by assuming, "She doesn't
have anything else to think about all
day, so no wonder she's upset!"?
Or "She's just taking her frustrations
out on me because she has a chronic illness."
you imagine an assertive person, what
comes to mind? Webster's Dictionary says
that assertiveness is "positive;
affirming confidently; affirmative."
Too often we confuse assertiveness with
aggression which is defined as "making
assaults and unjustly attacking."
Most of us have had moments when we have
slid into an aggressive mode, but assertiveness
is based on one's ability to confidently
step forward. Rather than becoming aggressive,
I believe that the chronically ill often
become burnt out on fighting and we simply
avoid any conflict. Who has the energy
to fight for our rights? Next time a situation
arises where you may need to be a bit
assertive, here are some things in which
have the right to say no without feeling
those of us with chronic illness, this
is a big one! We must say, "no, thanks,"
or "I'll pass," much more often
than we would prefer. Even when we master
the ability to say no, the guilt continues
to sit with us for days. Let it go! You
know your abilities and limitations and
what is best for your own health and your
family's well being.
I have the right to state my opinion,
even if I change my mind.
Have you ever been on a jury and you had
to state your decision up-front, but than
as the deliberations continued, you changed
your mind about the verdict? You have
the right to say what you think, but it's
best to think before you speak. Is what
you say going to hurt someone's feelings?
Are your comments going to help the situation?
have the right to take risks and try new
because you have a chronic condition doesn't
mean you have to eat at the same restaurant
the rest of your life. Try new things!
You may find a new hobby or a new activity
that you are able to easily do, in which
you would have never thought about. "When
I started taking photos it was on one
of those cardboard cameras," says
Darcie. "But then I found that I
really loved it and I wasn't half bad.
So I bought a real camera. It's been fun.
I've had an excuse to go to events that
I couldn't participate in before, like
boat races, because I am 'the photographer.'"
have the right to be heard
you are having a conversation with a medical
professional or your mother, you do have
the right to be heard. Too many of us
fall into the habit of talking all of
the time, however, and forgetting that
we also have the responsibility to listen.
Know your boundaries and what you are
willing to listen to and not. When a man
approached me after a health fair and
said, "I can cure you in 30 days,"
I replied, "You have sixty seconds
to tell me why I should talk with you
further about your product." I listened...
and no, he didn't convince me. He felt
okay about it though, and I got out of
an uncomfortable thirty-minute sales pitch.
So be assertive-practice in front of the
mirror if you must. As you step out and
share your opinion, it may feel awkward
at first, but then you will gain more
confidence and it will become simpler
the next time the opportunity arises.
Even studies have shown that assertive
people are more likely to have personal
and professional relationships that are
based on honesty and mutual respect.