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Poking around in restaurant kitchens

Canalside, Amiens, France

The sun was glinting off the water as we walked along the canal side in Amiens in search of something to eat. The colourful restaurants all had tempting menus, but too many days of eating the three course ‘menus’ and a tightening waistband meant that I was looking for a smaller lunch.

Then I spotted it – a café that had one of my favourites, something that we rarely find in Britain. Galettes.

The waiter saw me looking and smiled ‘Bonjour Madam’, indicating the favoured waterside seating. But I refused to sit immediately.

Indicating the board displaying their offerings I asked in my best schoolgirl French. ‘Are you absolutely sure that your galettes are 100% buckwheat?’

‘Oui, madam, pas gluten.’ He replied, pulling out a chair for me.

This type of conversation is an everyday event for me. I have to be mindful and assertive to look after my health. Sometimes I even go and look in the restaurant kitchen to make sure the chefs understand how to prepare gluten free food.

I have Coeliac (Celiac) disease and that means I can’t eat even the tiniest amount of gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains and any meals made with these foods are out of bounds.

Au revoir Croissant, au revoir bagette, au revoir patisserie. And even goodbye to a whole range of foods and condiments containing ‘hidden’ gluten. These range from some ice creams and milk shakes, beer through to soy sauce.

This set me to pondering how others with this disease who may be less assertive than me, manage. I’m guessing they may sometimes eat meals they aren’t completely convinced are gluten free. Then they spend some time rushing to the loo and wishing they had been more persistent.

I wondered, too, how many other ways lack of assertiveness might effect your health.

Not ‘bothering’ the doctor

Passive people sometimes don’t want to bother the doctor with ‘little’ symptoms. They convince themselves that the doctor is busy and, after all, their symptoms are ‘nothing to worry about.’ Or they do think the symptoms are worrying but leave getting medical attention until things are too late.

Not pushing for appropriate tests

Doctors are busy people and sometimes don’t want to refer patients on for more specialised help. Passive people may sit in their consulting room wanting more but failing to be insistent. Result? They go away with a nagging feeling that more should be done.

Not asking questions

I sometimes wonder if doctors have training on how to get patients out of the door as quickly as possible. It sure seems like it, and that can lead many passive people to scuttle out without their questions asked, much less answered.

How to deal with these situations

My tip is to write down what you want before you leave home. Write down what you want to ask and what you want to happen. If appropriate, do some research beforehand so that you know what is appropriate for your symptoms or condition. And don’t feel you are wasting the doctor’s time. After all, without patients they’d be out of work! Your health is important, look after it.

If you want to know more about how to be assertive you’ll find many tips in my book ‘How to be Assertive’ available through Amazon and other e-book sellers.

* Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t wheat, but part of the rhubarb family and so safe for Coeliacs to eat.

Sex and Assertiveness – Initiating sex

Lead the life you want
Lead the life you want

In my last blog on sex and assertiveness, I discussed four key steps to being confident in intimate situations. I mentioned some research done by the Assertive Sexual Communication Research Group. They asked students what situations they found difficult in relation to sex and sexual communication.

This is what they found:



Making sexual requests 41.7

Changing your mind once sexual contact has begun 36.7 Initiating any level of sexual contact 35.1

Saying ‘no’ to any level of sexual contact 33.3

Asking about or sharing sexual history 33 Asking about or sharing STI status 27.5

Stating your personal boundaries 27.2

Saying ‘yes but not now’ 23

Using protection 12.5

It’s staggering that even now, so many people have problems talking about sex, yet clearly it is still the case. In my last blog I outlined four key assertiveness abilities for intimate situations:

1 – You have the right to say ‘no’

2 – Recognise and deal with manipulation

3 – Avoid risk situations

4 – Ask for what you want Initiating sexual contact

Let’s look now at one of the other situations in the list above ‘Initiating any level of sexual contact’. Let’s assume for now, that you are already in a sexual relationship with the person. Know your partner well, and consider which of these ideas would work best for them. Remember, you may need different techniques for different situations and moods.

Put it in writing

Leave a sexy note where your lover will find it. The note can be on their pillow, or tucked into their wallet or purse, or any other suitable place. You could also send a hot text. How about writing messages such as: ‘I want you, now!’ ‘Can’t wait to be alone with you tonight’ ‘You make me hot. See you later!’ ‘Remember that time on the beach in Greece? Let’s do that again tonight!’

Just ask

How about just asking directly? You could ask: over dinner, or a shared glass of wine or when you’re getting in the shower when hugging in the kitchen. While being direct can work well, make sure the atmosphere is relaxed to begin with. A request at the wrong time is unlikely to work.

Have fun!

How about wearing something sexy and role playing? Many people feel self-conscious at first with this type of fun, but why not give it a try? What are your fantasies? Remember, it’s great to laugh while being intimate.

Offer a massage

Learn how to massage, your partner will love it. Don’t expect sex every time you give a massage though (unless your partner wants it). But this type of touch can be very loving and relationship-affirming. Massages don’t always have to be with your partner lying on the sofa, bed or floor. How about a massage in the shower?

What would you like to know about sex and assertiveness? Leave a message in the box below. I’d love to hear from you.

Are you raising happy children?

Assertive book cover

How To Be Assertive

The nature versus nature debate about child development has gone on for centuries. I’ve often wondered if the researchers actually had children themselves as they try to argue it’s just one or the other. My own experience, echoed by many others, is that my two children had different personalities from birth, yet it is obvious they have been hugely influenced by their upbringing. The two cannot be separated.

That being the case, we have to accept that children learn from what they see around them. Have you ever stopped to consider what your children learn about confidence and assertiveness from observing your behaviour.

The question is – are you a good role model?

If you have children, you want them to grow up happy and confident, able to behave appropriately in any situation. They will learn to do this in a number of ways. Two key ones are:

  • from what they see around them. That means the behaviour of those adults they come into contact with

* from what they are told about themselves. This means if they are encouraged to believe they are worthy of respect. Adults demonstrate this by what they say to children and how they respond to them.

Maybe your children hear you tell stories about how you avoided dealing with a difficult person, or moaning because you didn’t say no to a request when you were really tired and busy.

Perhaps they see you being sarcastic, aggressive or just downright unpleasant.

Or maybe your children see you acting confidently and assertively.

We rarely analyse our own behaviour, much less ask ourselves what effect it is having on the impressionable young minds we come into contact with. Yet we can do so much good, or so much damage.

*** Try this ***

For the next 24 hours be consciously aware of what you say and do around your children, or any children you are taking care of. Ask yourself searching questions such as:

  • What message are they getting about how to handle situations?
  • Have I already noticed my children copying my behaviour and words?

* What positive messages have I been teaching them about themselves?

* Are there any negative aspects of my behaviour that need to be changed? If so, how can I make the changes?


Are you a People Pleaser?

How to be Assertive

woman in pink xsmall

Are you someone who loves to please people just because you like them? Or could it be that the real reason you want to please them is because you fear their disapproval?

Many people, especially women, suffer from the ‘please people syndrome’. This means they find it difficult to say ‘no’; to speak their mind when they disagree with others; to challenge people; to ask for what they want.

All this can lead to major stress because the please people person rarely gets their own needs met. This sometimes leads these passive people to get so frustrated that they eventually blow a gasket.

Let’s look at an example. John, that awkward bloke who sits near you at work, never washes up the mugs when it’s his turn. No-one else challenges him, and it’s often you who ends up doing it. Sometimes you become passive-aggressive and sigh loudly, clattering the mugs as…

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Are you a People Pleaser?


How To Be Assertive
How To Be Assertive

Are you someone who loves to please people just because you like them? Or could it be that the real reason you want to please them is because you fear their disapproval?

Many people, especially women, suffer from the ‘please people syndrome’. This means they find it difficult to say ‘no’; to speak their mind when they disagree with others; to challenge people; to ask for what they want.

All this can lead to major stress because the please people person rarely gets their own needs met. This sometimes leads these passive people to get so frustrated that they eventually blow a gasket.

Let’s look at an example. John, that awkward bloke who sits near you at work, never washes up the mugs when it’s his turn. No-one else challenges him, and it’s often you who ends up doing it. Sometimes you become passive-aggressive and sigh loudly, clattering the mugs as you clean them, but you say nothing.

Each time this happens, you put a mental ‘saving stamp’ in a book marked ‘John’. Then one day you are tired or stressed and you notice the mugs need washing. This is the final stamp (read final straw!). You blow up. You shout at John, calling him all the names under the sun. He’s stunned. Okay, so he’s a bit lazy, but more often he’s forgetful.

‘If you’d reminded me, I’d have washing them. Honestly.’ he tells you.

You kind of believe him.

Now you feel bad. You never let John know you were angry with him. You assumed he would read your mind that you were upset, or at least get the idea from your exaggerated sighs. You feel guilty, and John feels hard-done-to.

Trouble is, if you’re a really passive person, you still won’t say anything when he forgets the next week (or the week after that). You’ll be there with your new savings book, putting ‘John’ stamps in it, until you blow up next time.


Speak to someone gently as soon as they irritate you. Speaking out early on means that you will be in control of your emotions. They may not change their behaviour, of course. In that case, you may need to speak to them again; find another way round the problem or seek a more considered solution. It will depend on the situation.

Another thing to consider is whether you are sweating the small stuff – worrying about something that just isn’t that important. I used to worry about the loo seat being left up. But, hey, it’s really no big deal. I’ve thrown that stamp away and feel more relaxed for it.

I’d love to know if you are acting more assertively now. Perhaps you have some questions in relation to being assertive or would just like to comment on this blog. Do write in the comment box below.

My best wishes,


You can Shine

Yesterday somebody reminded me of the speech made by the late Nelson Mandela. It included the words below:

Our Deepest Fear

by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others’


 This is such a wonderful piece of writing and one you can return to again and again if you hesitate to be assertive. I love the line ‘There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.’  So many people feel that they must fit in; they shouldn’t put themselves forward or stand out. It means that they never show who they really are. They never achieve their full potential.

And isn’t it exhilarating to realise that if we allow ourselves to shine, we give permission for others to do so. Being assertive is not about putting people down, or being aggressive. It’s not about hiding our skills and talents so others don’t have the benefits of sharing them. It’s about owning that side of yourself that is thoughtful, tactful, straightforward, encouraging and positive. Do this and you’ll be a great role model for those around you.

***** Try this! ****

Imagine yourself behaving assertively during the coming week. Note what would be different in how you behave and feel, and how others respond to you. Select one or two events/discussions and actually do it. Choose non-threatening situations where, if you think about it, nothing bad can actually happen. If you are successful, give yourself a huge pat on the back. If it doesn’t go quite to plan, that’s okay. Consider what you can learn from the experience for next time. There is no failure while you are still trying.

I’d love to hear from you

What topics related to assertiveness would you like to see in a future blog? Write to let me know in the comments box below.

Strong Emotions Make You Stupid!

When I was training to be a hypnotherapist, I remember being told Strong Emotions make you stupid!

Now, there’s a thought. It took me a while to think about mistakes I’d made in my life and, sure enough, they’d all been linked to strong emotions (quite a few of them hormonal!). The amygdala, the bit of the brain that regulates our behaviour, gets highjacked by strong emotions. This means that our decisions may be flawed and we may not behave as sensibly or assertively as we would like.

Here’s an example. Tracey and Julie had been friends for many years. Both single, they’d always hoped for the right relationship, but neither had achieved what they wishes.  Still, they enjoyed being young and single and spending time together.

Unexpectedly, Tracey met Mr Right at a conference, and they soon become a couple. Julie was upset; let’s face it, her amygdala was overwhelmed and she became terribly jealous. Her friend was no longer available as readily as before, and Mr Right had to be taken into consideration with all planned get-togethers.

Instead of assertively discussing her fears, and finding a new way for the friendship to continue, Julie acted sulkily and became demanding. Tracey felt torn – her new partner was wonderful company, but she wanted to give Julie attention too. Increasingly, time with Julie was no longer fun. Her sulks and demands made her just hard work. Tracey tried for a long time, and several times tried to address the issue assertively with her friend.

Unfortunately, Julie was not responsive. Eventually, Tracey gave up and withdrew from the friendship. Julie’s lack of assertiveness caused a self-fulfilling prophesy to come true. She lost her good friend. Not because of Mr Right, but because of her own behaviour.

*** Try this***

If you have issues you need to discuss with someone, plan ahead for the conversation. Write yourself a script or practice with a friend or in front of the mirror. Use calming techniques if you need to. Choose a quiet time when you are both calm and unlikely to be interrupted. If you are not sure how to word things, you may well find ideas in my book How to be Assertive, available on kindle. You’ll also find some calming techniques there.

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.

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.