Month: December 2013

Faulty Thinking ruins Janice’s day…

It was a dark, cold, December night. The rain blew horizontally across the platform as she waited for the train. It was already twenty minutes late. Her fingers were going numb as she held her briefcase; she didn’t dare put in on the ground, too many puddles.

There was no waiting room in this isolated Fen location and the pathetic ‘shelter’ laughed at her attempts to keep dry. She could see a nearby road. Cars sped by, their drivers warm and dry, no doubt looking forward to getting home soon. Even without delays she knew her journey would take three hours. It was always the same when she worked here for a day – two trains, a tube ride and a twenty minute walk each way. She knew she’d get home exhausted, ratty and wanting nothing more than to get to bed. Not much fun for her husband a kids.

If only she was brave enough to use her GPS, she could have driven here in an hour and half. But she just knew she couldn’t learn to use technology. It always went wrong in her hands; it would probably blow up or something.

Janice is a victim of ‘faulty thinking’. A capable, intelligent woman, she believes that she can’t use technology so she doesn’t try.

What is ‘Faulty Thinking”? 

Faulty thinking consists of thoughts that are:

a) not based on fact, but on (often unconscious) beliefs

b) unhelpful.

Should we believe all our thoughts?

Not necessarily, and not if those thoughts are not helpful. Let’s look at just one type of faulty thinking – the tendency to believe all our thoughts.

Thoughts just pop into our head, we don’t ask them to come, sometimes we wish they didn’t come.

Let’s have a look at some common unhelpful thoughts that meet our criteria above: they’re not based on fact, and are unhelpful.

‘I’m a fat cow’

Isn’t this awful? Women, in particular, are often so amazingly critical of themselves that they call themselves unbelievably ugly names. They’d never say this to someone else. Sure, you may be above a healthy body weight, but you are not a cow. You are a unique human being with many fine qualities: your weight does not define who you are.

‘I’m useless’

I’ve never come across a useless person yet. Some people are challenging, others under-motivated, but no-one is useless. Janice is a victim of this thinking, and it affects her confidence to try to learn technology. So she often tells herself she’s useless, when in fact she is super skilled at her job, has many friends and is a kind and loving mother and wife.

‘I couldn’t do that’

It’s perfectly true that we can’t all do everything we want. I’d be taller if I could, but short of major surgery, it’s not going to happen. But almost everyone can do so much more than they believe. Believing negative thoughts about your capability can stop you even trying to do something.

Where do these thoughts come from?

The simple answer is that they come from a variety of sources: from our upbringing, from people we know; from the media, from the world around us. All these influences shape our thoughts, as well as our feelings and behaviour.

The good news is that we don’t have to believe our thoughts! Isn’t that amazing!

Lots of our negative thoughts are untrue; some are even downright lies. We wouldn’t believe them if someone else said them. So don’t be afraid to question those rogue thoughts. Ask yourself:

  • is this true?
  • is this verifiably true?
  • is this thought helpful?
  • what would be more helpful to believe?

Going back to the examples above, what would more helpful thoughts be?

‘I’m a fat cow’  can become ‘I need to lose some weight, but I’m still a worthwhile person.’

‘I’m useless’ can become ‘I’m not very good at technical things, but there are plenty of other things I do well.’

‘I couldn’t do that’ can become ‘I could learn how to do that.’

 Try this!

Try these new, empowering thoughts on for size

Remember, you are not responsible for the thoughts that pop into your head, but you can choose what to do with them.

Here’s a great tip. If you catch yourself believing an unhelpful thought, Stop! Relax your body, and ask yourself what you could think instead. Identify a thought that is more positive and empowering.

Now, with your body relaxed, think the new thought in a kindly and compassionate tone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it yet. Just repeating this new thought to yourself will mean you start to change your brain patterns. This means that eventually you will find the new thought has replaced the old one. After all, this type of thinking is just a habit, and habits can be changed.

Imagine enjoying your life free from those old, hurtful thoughts. Go on, give this technique a try. What have you got to lose?

You can read more about faulty thinking in my book ‘How to be Assertive’. Click on the ad on this page to find it on amazon. You might like to download a sample to see if it’s for you.

Five Tips for Surviving the Holiday

Surviving the holiday season


Christmas is coming fast, and while many people look forward to it, others face it with dread. Even one day spent in close proximity with family can seem like a year. Image

Here are five tips to get you through Christmas, allowing you to keep your cool and your assertive behaviour.

  1. Don’t make yourself broke buying everything.

I recently heard about someone who plans to cook an eight course meal for thirty family members. The meat bill alone is £750.00. This person is not well off. Crazy! Don’t get in debt just to impress your guests. Ask them to bring something towards food, drink or entertainment. Be specific so there is no duplication. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to contribute.

2.  Don’t wear yourself out cooking.

I learned years ago to cheat. Frozen roast potatoes (yum!), frozen yorkshire puddings, instant gravy, whatever. If you can’t bear to do that, get your guests to share the tasks. Again, be specific. ‘Tom, I’d like you to peel the potatoes, Mary, can you peel the sprouts and chop the cabbage.’

Share the work and you won’t be tired and tetchy before you’ve even started eating.

 3.  Plan how to respond to difficult people.

Okay, you know which relative is a pain in the neck. The one who winds you up each year with sarcastic comments or heavy sighs. Plan how you’ll respond. Here are some suggestions:

‘I’m sorry you need to comment on that.’

‘Thank you for your comment.’

‘I’ll keep that in mind.’

Get the idea? Just a quick phrase, calmly said. Then walk away and get on with something else. If they see they can’t irritate you, they’ll get bored with trying.

 4.  Ask for help with clearing up.

Don’t go all martyr-like. No-one likes a martyr, and they often get ignored so your efforts will probably go unnoticed. Make your requests straightforward, no insincere flattery. Keep your voice calm and clear:

‘I’d like some help now we’ve finished our meal. John, would you and Jane clear the table. Tom and Mary, would you load the dishwasher please? I’ll wipe all the worktops and put everything away.’

Better still, warn people ahead of time that you would like them to do some tasks.

 5.  Offer entertainment.

If your family like to slump in front of the TV, that’s fine. But do consider offering alternatives like boxed games or a walk. Ask for suggestions before the day.

 Planning ahead for how you will act assertively will make your day so much more relaxed. Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

Use visualisation to beat worries

worried headache man

This very effective way of overcoming worry works on

your emotional brain by literally allowing you to ‘see’ things differently. You may need to practice the visualisations several times before they reduce the immediate emotional impact of worry.

If you’re not good at visualising, just sense this in what ever way works for you.

Visualisation One

Sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Get a mental picture of whatever is worrying you. If it is difficult to visualise imagine a gloomy rain cloud with the name of the worry written on it. Relax your body. Next imagine a huge box, big enough to contain the worry. Place the worry in it. Now place the box outside the door knowing that you can pick it up again or leave it as you decide.

Visualisation Two

Relax your body. Get a mental picture of whatever is worrying you. If you can, make the picture black and white. Put a frame round the picture – it is now a photograph. Shrink the picture until it is quite small. Now imagine a distant wall. Put the picture on it. It’s there in the distance but you can’t really make out the detail. If you ever need to refer to it, you know where to find it, otherwise leave it where it is.