Return to Personal Sovereignty

Respecting the personal sovereignty of others

We explained that personal sovereignty means that each person is the only legitimate source of authority for his/her choices, decisions, and actions. Respecting the personal sovereignty of others means remembering that other people are autonomous beings with their own choices and preferences.

What not to do

We do not act upon them without their consent. We do not try to impose our opinions or wishes on them, or pose demands, or force them to act according to our wishes. We certainly do not threaten them with sanctions, punishment, or violence (either verbal or physical) if they do not obey us. We also do not try to get something from others by deception or manipulations, or claim that we have some entitlement to live at their expense. And we do not take advantage of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others. We respect and are sensitive to their borders, we do not invade or impose on their space or time, we do not touch them without their permission, and we do not yell at them.

This is just like how one sovereign country respects the sovereignty of other countries. As in a free dance party – everyone is free to dance in any way they want, and no one can tell anyone else how they should dance, so long as people respect others and don’t step on them or violate their space. So as self-sovereign beings, let’s see how we can all dance together harmoniously in our society.

Accepting “no”

We are all familiar with this hurtful side of human interactions. If our request encounters a refusal, we may feel hurt, rejected, disappointed, annoyed, angry, shocked, sad, etc. This may trigger emotional pains from our past, and then we may take out our feelings on the other person, which is tragic for both of us. Instead, we must internalize the understanding that the other person is an independent sovereign individual, and always accept their answer. If it is emotionally painful for us, we need to learn how to handle our emotions. Handling our emotions is always our own responsibility, and they are never anyone else’s fault or responsibility.

See also “How to receive a response” here.

We don’t want to be perceived as an aggressor

We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where we manage to coerce someone to serve us and give us something against their true wishes, or force someone to allow us to do something to them. Because that would cause them to develop a grudge against us. They will perceive us as an aggressor.

Refraining from manipulations

This means refraining from using psychological manipulations such as:

  • Begging: “come on, pretty pleeease with sugar on top, I beg of you, this is really important for me, what do you care to agree?”
  • Bothering: repeatedly ask even after getting “no” again and again, to make the other person exhausted until they say “ok, ok, I’ll do it, just so you stop bothering me”.
  • Getting offended: “It’s insulting that you don’t agree, I’m offended”
  • Blame: “Look how sad I am because of you, why are you causing me such pain?”
  • Guilt: “If you really cared about me, you would agree to what I’m asking”
  • Shame: “You refuse your mother’s request, after all she’s done for you?! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
  • Taking score: “When you wanted something and I did it for you, that was fine with you, wasn’t it? But now when I ask something of you, suddenly you can’t do it?”
  • Sanctions: “If you don’t do it, then I also won’t agree to what you will ask of me”
  • Threats: “don’t be surprised when I will treat you accordingly”
  • Passive aggressiveness: “ok, fine, be that way” (implied: “you will pay the cost for refusing my request”). It could also be done non-verbally by making a sour face, rolling your eyes, or slamming a door.
  • Denying free will: “You simply must do it, it is required, there is no other way, you don’t have any choice in this matter”
  • Insults: “You’re a lousy person!”

Think of situations where you tried to use manipulations on other people in order to get from them something you wanted. Did it work? What was the price that you and the other person paid for this manipulation? What would be better ways of trying to get what you want?

Being sensitive to others

While each person needs to take full personal responsibility, and it is not our job to take responsibility for anyone’s choices and actions, it is also important that we become aware of the fact that some people may not have developed enough self awareness and the ability to listen to themselves and to say “no”. Some people may seem to consent to a request, but this is not out of fully wanting to do it, but because they are used to being pleasers, or because they fear the consequences of saying “no”. We don’t want to accidentally find ourselves doing something to someone when they don’t fully want it. And we don’t want anyone to agree to our request because they think they should do us a favor.

So we need to develop our emotional intelligence, our empathy and sensitivity to the other person. When this ability is developed within us, we are able to feel when a consent may be too hasty or not authentic. When we suspect that, we should give the other person more time to find out what they feel and want. We can say something like this: “I’m happy that you agreed, but I don’t feel completely certain that you really want it and feel comfortable doing it. How about you take some more time to think about my request? You don’t have to give me an answer right now, take your time. If you decide to agree, I ask that you share with me the reasons you want to do it. This would make me feel more certain and comfortable, and will allow me to act without concerns”. This communicates to the other person that we see them, we care about their well-being, and it is more important for us than getting what we want from them.


Think of a situation where someone agreed to your request, but later you found our they did it for the wrong reasons. E.g. they didn’t want to disappoint you, or where afraid to say “no”. What was the price that you paid for this? What could you do in the future to try to detect such situations and prevent them?