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Introduction > Making the Change > What is Assertiveness > Knowing the Difference > Asserting Yourself > Role Playing > Being Assertive > Conclusion

Asserting Yourself in Important Situations

Everyone has rights, some of which are protected by law, others that are basic courtesy. Asserting your rights is important, especially when they may affect your health, career, or relationships. Some things to remind yourself when faced with important decisions:


You have the right to:

Ask questions.

Don't be afraid to ask a doctor, nurse or counselor, about a diagnosis, recommended treatment, or prescribed drug. You may worry that their time is important but so are your time and your health. You have a right to ask and receive a full explanation about anything pertaining to your health.

Get a second opinion.

Doctors, nurses, and counselors are not infallible. If you are concerned about a diagnosis or recommended treatment, even after a healthcare professional has explained it to you, it's your right to go see someone else. (Although you may have to discuss this with your insurance company before doing so.) If the information you're being given could drastically affect your life, don't feel as though you have to rely on one person's word. Healthcare professionals are right more often than they are wrong (otherwise they wouldn't be practicing), but it doesn't hurt to see other professionals for their opinion.

Refuse treatment and/or seek alternative treatment.

This is often a scary and difficult decision, but if you are a competent adult, you do have the right to refuse medical treatment. You may choose to do so because you have received a different opinion from another expert in the field; you may do so because you are afraid the drawbacks of the treatment will outweigh the benefits (for example, undergoing chemotherapy when there's only a small chance your cancer will spread); or you may do so for other, personal reasons. Deciding to refuse treatment or seek alternative treatments against your healthcare professional's advice can be very risky and should be considered very carefully. If you have doubts about a treatment or diagnosis, even after getting a second opinion, consider doing research (focusing on reliable resources!), talking to others who have experienced the treatment or diagnosis, and getting even a third or fourth opinion.

Stay Informed.

Some of your options may be limited by time, availability, or what you or your insurance is willing and able to pay, but your right to be informed doesn't have to be limited. Your local library, the Internet, health care and community centers, and advocacy groups are all good places to look for more information. Just remember to assess the validity of the information you find -- ask questions like, "Who is distributing this information?"; "What is their agenda?"; "What are their credentials?"; and "What are they not addressing?"

Work and School

You have the right to:

Equal opportunity

No matter what your race, gender, or abilities, the law guarantees you equal access to jobs and an education. You cannot be turned down for a job or be rejected from a school based simply on your physical attributes. You cannot be denied the same opportunities available to others.

Equal rewards

Just as you have the right to the same opportunities, you have the right to the same rewards. If you perform as well as others at work or at school, you deserve the same compensation (be it in the form of a grade or a paycheck.)

Family and Friends

Sometimes, asserting oneself around people you care for can be harder than asserting oneself elsewhere in life. That's because these are people you care for and depend upon. However, that doesn't mean you don't deserve to be treated fairly by them. Just as you expect fair treatment from your boss, coworkers, or teachers, you should expect the same from those who care for you. That includes:

Equal treatment

You deserve to be treated the same as other family members and friends when it comes to responsibilities (such as doing chores, sharing, or taking turns) and rewards (such as choosing which movie you'll see with your friends or the right to time on the family computer.)


Just like everywhere else in your life, you also deserve to be treated with respect. While family members and friends may be casual around each other (that's part of the comfort that comes with friendship), if their actions or behaviors offend you or hurt your feelings, you have the right to tell them and ask them to change those behaviors.

For more information about your rights under law, contact your local Mountain State Centers for Independent Living or visit these online resources.

Next: Additional Resources on Legal Rights

Mountain State Centers for Independent Living