Month: January 2014

You don’t have to believe those negative thoughts…

Tom can’t button his shirt…

Tom struggled to do up his shirt. He needed to connect every button because he couldn’t button the waistband of his trousers and needed to disguise that fact. He breathed in and did up the last button, but as he breathed out again he felt it strain. The thread would probably give way before the end of the day. Damn! He’d have to wear a sweater, and he’d be too hot all day.

 ‘Going back to work after my winter holiday is going to be awful’ he thought. ‘Everyone will notice the extra fat round my middle. They’ll all laugh at me. That girl in the next office, the one I’ve been trying to get to know for a while now, will never look at me. No-one would.’

Inner Critics affect our ability to be Assertive

Tom’s inner critic was having a field day. It was overgeneralising like mad. ‘Everyone’, ‘all’, ‘never’, ‘no-one’. These are all sweeping generalisations; examples of faulty thinking that affect our self esteem and therefore affect our ability to be assertive.

Do you have an inner critic? If you need to be more assertive, you almost certainly do. That damned voice that nags and complains, telling you how rubbish you are at this or that, or how things will ‘never’ work out for you. Trouble is, we tend to believe that voice.

You don’t have to believe your thoughts

If you realise that you have an inner critic that stops you behaving assertively, the first step is to acknowledge that it is just an old recording playing in your head like an ear-worm. You don’t have to believe it. Here is a step-by-step approach to changing the recording….

Step One – Acknowledge the inner critic. Recognise it for what it is. Say to yourself (gently) ‘Oh, there’s that inner critic again.’ If it is using a generalisation like:





challenge that thought. Ask yourself questions like ‘Everyone? Really? Could there ever be an exception?’

Step Two – Allow it to gently drift away. If you get a picture with the thought, make the picture smaller, black and white and let it drift off so far you can’t see it any more. If it’s the voice alone, sing what the critical voice is saying to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’. I guarantee it will make you laugh and, in doing so, take the sting out of the words.

Step Three – Replace the words with something more positive and empowering. If you can visualise, picture these words being true, even if you don’t believe them yet.

You see, your brain has been wired to repeat those words from the past. Taking these simple steps will start the process of re-wiring. Eventually, your brain will get the message and the new, empowering, thoughts will become automatic.

Want to know more about being assertive? You might like my book ‘How to be Assertive’ available on kindle.

Are you keeping your New Year’s Resolution?

Maya started 2103 full of good intentions. Normally, she didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions but Imageshe was determined to change a few things in her life. She’d lose a bit of weight, not masses, just about 5% of her body weight. It was enough to get her back into healthy BMI.

 Secondly, she planned to get promotion at work. Maya had been with her company for five years. She was well qualified and efficient, yet several times she had been overlooked for promotion. Worse, she knew that some of the people who’d got ahead of her had less skills than her. As a result, she’d been quietly fuming.

Then for Christmas 2012, a friend bought her a book on how to get promoted. It was full of great advice. What amazed Maya though, was that mostly it was about being more assertive. She learned that by keeping her head down and doing a good job, she was being overlooked. She needed to be more visible. She resolved to follow the steps in the book one by one. This is what she did:

Instead of being quiet in meetings, Maya carefully read the agenda and planned what she was going to say. She spoke out on at least half the agenda items. She made sure what she said was relevant and succinct. She maintained good eye contact and sat comfortably upright. At first, people were a bit surprised when she spoke, but within a few meetings she realised they had started to look to her to contribute. It was a massive confidence boost.

Maya volunteered to lead a new project at work. Not one for pushing herself forward, normally she would have been a follower, not a leader. But she’d had enough leaders, good and bad, to know what worked. She knew how to motivate others and get the best out of them. She gave clear commands, worked collaboratively with the team, and spoke to those people who were falling behind to get them back on board. The project was a great success and came in on time and on budget.

Maya let her boss know of her successes.  In the past, she’d thought of this as bragging, but now she realised the boss wouldn’t know unless she told her. Using her new assertiveness skills, she used the art of ‘gentle boasting’. It was a style of assertiveness that suited her personality well.

She kept her skills up to date. Not just her technical skills, but her interpersonal skills. That included getting comfortable when speaking to the most senior managers. She’d been too scared to say much to them in the past.

She made sure she looked the part. Through reading about assertiveness, Maya subtly changed her body language so she looked more assertive. She walked more upright. She held eye contact more firmly. She used confident gestures. And, taking one tip from her book, she started to dress like those people one grade higher than her.

Finally, come October, she asked for a raise. No jobs had become vacant, so she asked for a raise instead. She got it, and her boss implied she’d be very favourably regarded for a promotion in future.

Now, all she has to do is to decide on her resolutions for 2014. She’s still considering several options, but feels sure she can achieve most things she sets out to do.

I’d love to hear your New Year’s Resolutions. What are they? How are you progressing towards them?

*** Try this! ***

Maybe you don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but you probably have some goals – situations you would like to tackle assertively. Identify one now. Spend a few minutes planning how you will deal with it. Then close your eyes and, in whatever way works for you, imagine yourself doing it. See yourself being confidently assertive, with relaxed body language and easily able to articulate your point. Repeat this several times. You will start to lay down new pathways in your brain. This means that when it’s time for the real thing, you are much more likely to deal with it well.

How James’ faulty thinking made him panic



James opened the letter excitedly. Yes! 

He punched the air triumphantly. He’d done it. He’d got an interview for a job he really wanted. Now for the preparation. He’d already done quite a bit at the application stage. He’d researched the organisation and the vacancy. He’d worked out exactly how his skills matched those they needed. He’d worked out the questions they were likely to ask, based on the Person Specification. And he’d decided how he would answer them.

On the day of the interview, he looked great. Best suit and tie, new haircut, shiny shoes. He sat on the train reading through his notes again, feeling as confident as he could be.

Then the train ground to a halt.

James wasn’t worried, he’d got about half an hour leeway. Nonetheless, he found himself looking at his watch every minute or two. It was fully ten minutes later before an announcement came over the loudspeakers:

We apologise for the delay, ladies and gentlemen.This is due to an engine failure. Another train is on its way. It should be here in about forty minutes. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Groans were heard from every part of the carriage, James noticed. He also noticed that everyone then got on with what they were doing, reading; chatting; sleeping.

But not him.

His started to panic.

I’ll be late! They’ll think I’m hopeless! If I don’t get this job, I’ll be out of work for years! It’s taken me forty three applications to get this one interview. I’ll never get another! At my age, no-one will want to employ me.

He started to sweat, his breaths became shallower and faster, his heart raced and he felt faint. He couldn’t think straight.

James had been struck by faulty thinking – he was catastrophising.

Because of his negative assumptions that everything would be catastrophic, his thinking went haywire and he assumed the worst.

Catastrophic thinking will do that to you.

Eventually, James remembered that he read somewhere that taking a few deep breaths while relaxing your shoulders was a good way to get in control of your feelings. He tried it. To his surprise, it worked. He could think again.

He got out his mobile phone, called the company he was going to see and explained the situation. They agreed to add him to the end of their list of candidates for the day.

If you find yourself catastrophising, catch that thought. It stops you acting logically and assertively. Like James, take some deep breaths while you relax your body. Say to yourself Calm, calm. You’ll soon get back in control. Then you can work out what you can do about the situation.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • How likely is it that the worst will happen?
  • What is more likely to happen?
  • How can I help myself now to deal with this situation?

Using these simple techniques can make your life a lot calmer. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Talk yourself Assertive for 2104!

Do you ever find that what you say to yourself undermines what you say to others? That your inner dialogue cuts the rug from under your feet when you are trying to be assertive? If so, you are not alone. Many people have negative self talk. Luckily, even if you’ve had it your whole life, you can change it. Let’s look at some examples:

Positive self-talk

‘Now, let’s see, what’s the best way to do that?’

‘I made a mess of that, how can I sort it out?’

‘Hmm, I look okay in this.’

Negative self-talk

‘It’s hopeless, I’ll never finish this on time.’

‘I messed that up, I’m a complete idiot.’

‘I look so fat in this outfit, I hate my body.’

Signs of negative self-talk

*  feeling like a victim

*  using ‘universal’ words such as ‘everyone’, ‘no-one’, ‘always’, ‘never’

*  using commanding words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘have-to’

*  excessive worry and/or guilt

*  telling yourself off

*  dwelling excessively on old hurts

If you find yourself using negative inner-dialogue, don’t blame yourself. That would just be more negative self-talk. Be compassionate to yourself. Speak to yourself in a kindly tone. Gently acknowledge the thought –  ‘Oh, there’s that negative thought again.’

Now ask yourself ‘What would be more helpful to think?’ or ‘What would a more positive person think?’

Try out the thought for size. Say it to yourself as if it were true. Relax your body as you do so. Repeat this often enough and you will weaken the hold the negative self-talk has on you, increase your confidence and therefore enhance your ability to be more assertive.

What would you like to know about being assertive? Leave a message at the bottom of this page and I will do my best to help.

How Vikki’s faulty thinking stopped her finding a man

It was the first day of the new year and Vikki decided she’d been alone for long enough. Divorced for three years, she hadn’t had a single date since. Yet she longed to have a special someone in her life, and her biological clock was ticking so loudly it was deafening at times.

Right, she thought, logging on, I’m going to find me a man.

She was surprised with the choice; there were quite a few guys in her age group who lived within an hour of her home. At least half a dozen were worth contacting. She went to grab her credit card to sign up to the dating site.

I’ll just have a coffee first, she thought.

As she sat there sipping her drink, she started to think:

‘He’ll think I’m not attractive enough.’

‘He’s slim and I could do with losing some weight. He won’t fancy me.’

‘He’s sure to think I’m too old for him, even though we’re the same age. Men always want someone younger.’

She put away her credit card with a sigh. This new year she is still single and the biological clock is ticking ever louder.

Vikki had been struck down by another faulty thinking type – Mind Reading.

Knowing very little about the guys on the website she mind read them. She decided that she knew what they would think about her, before they’d even as much as exchanged emails.

Mind reading is an effective way to sabotage yourself. We probably all do it at times, but some people do it so much, it stops them getting on with their life.

Sound like you? Do you hesitate to act assertively because you ‘mind read’ the person you want to speak to, assuming they will be thinking negatively about you?

In my last blog, I highlighted some questions that will help you overcome faulty thinking. So, catch your faulty thoughts and ask yourself:

  • Is that true?
  • Is it verifiably true?
  • Would people who care for me say this about me?
  • Is the thought unhelpful, stopping me from doing what I want to do?
  • What would be more empowering to think?

Challenge your thoughts with these questions and you can start to change your beliefs. Consider what you would say to someone who thought these negative things about themselves. What advice would you give them?

 Get yourself a notebook, one that is small enough to carry around. Each time someone pays you a compliment, write it down. It doesn’t have to be a big compliment, even a ‘thank you, that’s great’ is an acknowledgement of something you did well. As you write down the compliment, you might feel uncomfortable. That’s okay, you’re just on the road to letting go of old hurtful feelings. Relax your body and repeat the compliment to yourself, out loud or in your head. Do this a few times until you can read it comfortably. If any negative, and contradictory, thoughts pop into your head, gently acknowledge

them and let them drift away. Return to your compliment. Keep this practice going until you have filled a notebook, then get another one if you need to. Doing this will help you to appreciate yourself.

Give it a try. What have you got to lose?