Tag: assertiveness

Poking around in restaurant kitchens

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
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.

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Tom can’t button his shirt…

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Sad businessman sitting at workplace and trying to find solution of problem
Life feels heavy at times

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, struggling, did up the last button. But as he breathed out again he felt it strain. Damn! He’d have to wear a sweater, and he’d be too hot all day. He felt like Mr Blobby.

‘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:

‘Everyone’

‘No-one’

‘Always’

‘Never’

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.

*** Try This! ***

 Go ahead and try the technique above. You’ll be delighted with the results.

I’d love to what you think of these ideas. Do leave a comment below.

Do you mind read before a date?

ImageIt 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 signed up to a couple of internet dating sites. Several of her friends had met interesting men through them.

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.

I’ll just have a coffee before I contact them, 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 closed down the websites 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 an earlier 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?

*** Try this! ***

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?

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Do you have any questions about assertiveness? Are there any topics you’d like me to write about? I’d love to hear from you. You can write in the comments box below.

Is life one catastrophe after another?

Interview and key concept
Keeping cool is the key to great interviews

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 mind went into panic mode. 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 his shoulders was a good way to get in control of his 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 were fine with him, and agreed to add him to the end of their list of candidates for the day.

*** Try this! *** 

 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?

Have you tried these techniques? How did you get on?

Being Assertive Takes Courage. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

ImageWe often think of courage as a quality that people demonstrate when they climb a mountain, rescue someone from a burning building or skydive. It’s true, they are all acts of courage. But bravery doesn’t only include physical risk.

Another type of courage is that needed when we decide to change our behaviour. The behaviour we have now is what we are familiar with. It may or may not serve us well, but we accept it as ‘who we are’.

Changing behaviour takes courage. If you have previously dealt with frustrating situations by losing your temper, it takes courage to stop yourself, calm yourself down and act assertively.

Perhaps you’ve done the opposite, avoiding confrontational situations altogether, by being accommodating to everyone, even at your own expense. If so, it takes courage to plan how to deal with the situation assertively to do it. Real courage.

So let’s think about your own courage.

What would you do differently if you weren’t afraid?

What would you try?

What would you stop doing?

*** Try This! ***

Read a biography of someone whose courage inspires you. Ask yourself what you can learn from their attitude. How can you make that attitude your own, applying it to your wish to be more assertive?

I’d love to know how you have courageously taken a step towards being assertive. Let me know in the comments box below.

Nine ways to be happier

Image of happy woman with outstretched arms standing in field
Want to feel this good? Follow these easy steps.

You may be wondering why I am writing about happiness when this is a blog on assertiveness. The truth is that it’s easier to be assertive when you are feeling good. It gives you an inner strength, a resilience that supports you through even difficult conversations. Which of these suggestions can you use?

Be Sociable – spend time with people who make you feel good. Make face to face connections with colleagues, friends and family. Try to stop seeing people who make you feel bad.

Look after your body – it’s hard to feel happy if you are feeling unwell, sluggish or have regular hangovers. Eat well, drink alcohol in moderation.

Exercise – some people think this means going to the gym or doing a marathon, but that’s not the case. Just get moving. If your job is sedentary, get up about once an hour and walk around, have a good stretch. Go for a walk in your lunch break. Take the dog for a walk. Walk up stairs instead of taking the lift.

Sleep Well – follow a sleep routine to get 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. No screens of any sort for an hour before bedtime. A dark bedroom with a comfortable temperature. No alcohol (it may make you fall asleep but you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to get back to sleep)

Have goals for your life – these can be small goals like getting a piece of work done, bigger goals like getting fit or losing weight, or life changing goals like finding a new partner or a new job. Write your goals somewhere where you can see them regularly. Imagine what life will be like when you’ve achieved them then work backwards step by step drawing up your action plan.

Spent time in nature – do some gardening, take a walk in your lunch break, go hiking at weekends. Take time to enjoy what you see in nature.

Relax – download a meditation or hypnotic recording. Learn some relaxation techniques. A great one is to relax your shoulders and then breath in as you slowly count to five and out as you count to seven at the same speed. Repeat a few times.

Give back – research shows that helping others not only makes us feel better but it boosts our immune system. So help others, volunteer, give to charity, do whatever you can do to give back.

Laugh – watch comedies, go to comedy films, spend time with people who make you laugh.

OVER TO YOU – do you have any tricks you use to feel good? I’d love to know them. Tell me in the comments box.

Listening Cheat Sheet – 10 vital tips

Girl Telling A Secret To Her Friend

It’s impossible to be assertive if we are not listening well to what the other person says. These tips will help to keep you focussed. The conversation is much more likely to go well when you are listening.

  • Listen for the feelings, not just the words. These may show in body posture or facial expressions.
  • Avoid internal distractions so that you can give all your attention to listening to the other person.
  • Maintain good eye contact. It is normal for the listener to do more looking at the other person than the speaker. Speakers normally look away from time to time to think what to say next.
  • Reflect back what you understand them to have said. A simple ‘Can I just check I’ve understood that correctly. You’re saying that…’ is enough.
  • Don’t be judgemental or jump to conclusions about what the speaker means.
  • Choose a quiet time and place to speak. Turn off phones, music, screens, etc.
  • Show you’re listening by nodding and making small comments such as ‘mmm’, ‘I see’, ‘tell me more.’
  • Don’t rush to defend yourself if you are being criticised. Take deep breaths to keep calm. There are tips for dealing with criticism in my book ‘’How to be Assertive’
  • Ask questions that show that you have listened properly and are interested in what the other person has to say.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Sex and Assertive Communication

I was amazed recently that a 24 year old woman I know had unprotected sex on holiday with a man she had just met. She didn’t insist on using condoms because ‘It’s embarrassing to talk about that sort of stuff.’ This professional and intelligent woman was prepared to risk pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases rather than state what she wanted. She’s not alone. Some research by the Assertive Sexual Communication Research Group found that of the students they studied, 33.79% of males and 41.87% of females reported feeling uncomfortable communicating something in a sexual situation. In the first of (at least) two blogs on this topic I list below four key steps to using assertiveness in intimate situations.

Key Step One – You have the right to say ‘No!’ Elizabeth Powell in her excellent book ‘Talking Back to Sexual Pressure’ lists 15 sexual rights we all have. A very important one is the right ‘to refuse any type of sexual contact, regardless of how aroused the partners might be.’ That’s right. Your partner is hot and ready, but that doesn’t mean you have to say ‘Yes’. You still have the right to say ‘no’, even if until then you have been enjoying some heavy petting. This is your right.

Key Step Two – Recognise manipulation I remember as a teenager being told all the tricks guys get up to to get you to agree to sex. Things like:

  • ‘If you love me, you’ll let me have sex,’
  • ‘You got me aroused, you’ve got to have sex with me now.’
  • ‘It’s not good for a guy to get this horny and not have sex’
  • ‘If you say no now, you’re a bitch.’

Don’t fall for it. It is manipulation. Try these assertive responses:

Their manipulation Your assertive response
If you love me, you’ll let me have sex I can love you, yet choose not to have sex with you.
You got me aroused, you’ve got to have sex with me now. I appreciate you are aroused, but I still don’t have to have sex with you.
It’s not good for a guy to get this horny and not have sex. If you are horny, go somewhere private and deal with it. I don’t want to have sex.
‘If you say no now, you’re a bitch. I’m not a bitch for saying no, and if you continue to call me names, I won’t see you again.

Key Step Three – Avoid risk situations Do you know that after a few drinks you are likely to do things you’ll later regret? If so, don’t drink in a situation where you may later wish you hadn’t had sex. Do you sometimes go to places where you may be unsafe? Walk alone late at night? It’s certainly true that you shouldn’t have to worry about these things, but sadly it is an absolute necessity.

Key Step Four – Ask for what you want If you are in an intimate situation, it’s okay to ask for what you want. Really. So, go ahead and say things like:

  • ‘Move your hand like this’
  • ‘Keep doing that, it’s great’
  • ‘Don’t do that, I don’t like it’
  • ‘Let’s just cuddle tonight’

Remember, while you have the right to make your request, the other person has the right to say ‘no’. The exception to this is if you ask them to stop doing something. Then you have the right to insist.

I’d love to read your comments on this article. Just type them in the box below.