Train Yourself to Be Assertive

Assertiveness training is a way to re-programme the Adult persona that in our childhood and perhaps for much of our lives gives us a false idea of who we are and can become.
In particular, it re-programmes our tendency to seek blame – of others or ourselves – when things don’t quite go the way we want. It also re-programmes any false self-images that others have imposed on us and false roles that no longer suit the identity of who we see ourselves to be.
Here are 8 re-programming techniques which you can incorporate into your self-training programme and practice every day.
1. Changing Beliefs. People often get stuck in self-perpetuating situations because they cannot change their beliefs. Frogs firmly believe that their food is small, black and flies in the air. When you place dead flies in front of frogs, they will totally disregard them and go hungry.
”We have learned during our upbringing how to protect ourselves from danger, rejection, ridicule, disgust and other undesirable responses to our behaviour. We have developed a ”socially acceptable” way of being. Sometimes we call this good manners, or politeness, or conformity, or being inhibited, all of which serve to keep us safe.
But learning is about adventure. It is about lowering the barriers and allowing ourselves the freedom to be different from how we might normally be. Unless we are able to do this, our learning will be limited and narrow and read more has to fit who we have become rather than who we are.” (Trevor Bentley)
2. The ABC Technique. The ABC technique is a technique used in Rational Emotive Therapy that separates thought, feeling and action so that we can make more desirable choices about how to feel and behave.
The sequence is…
A – Activating event
B – Beliefs
C – Consequences
An example of the ABC sequence is a call to the boss’s office. Normally the call might trigger a belief that this spells trouble, the consequence of which is that you go into a fight-flight mode. By changing your belief about what the call might mean, you can learn to stay in neutral and give yourself a range of resources to deal with whatever the situation is about.
3. Musts Into Preferences. The survival mechanisms of our early years programme us with the ”musts” that we believe are the key to winning back the love and approval of others: I must work hard; I must succeed; I must be strong; and so on.
The ”musts” stay with us throughout our whole lives exerting a greater or lesser influence over us. The trouble with ”musts” is that they are outside our visit our site control and we can never hope to satisfy them.
By mentally changing a ”must” into a preference, three things happen…
1. We are in control. Not ”I must work tonight” but ”I prefer to work tonight.”
2. We don’t get unhappy if things don’t work out.
3. We can shrug our shoulders and walk away. ”I prefer to be strong in this situation, but, if not, oh, well…
4. Changing the Self-Talk. We must be careful how we talk to ourselves. The labels and self-talk we give ourselves often create a ceiling that has no relationship to our true potential. This can be changed by changing the label and the self-talk.
Example: I’m shy.
When we perceive it: Social situations.
The biofeedback: Feeling nervous and uptight.
Our self-talk: I can’t handle this.
Behaviour that results from the self-talk: Withdraw, freeze, act aloof, say the wrong thing, get tongue-tied, feel sweaty, panic
Changing the label and self-talk: I am someone who is interested in others. It is easy for me to meet and be friendly with all kinds of people. I enjoy meeting new people and discovering new things about them.
5. Resourceful States. This is how to access resourceful assertive states:
1. identify the unsatisfactory situation you want to change. Find a cue that particularly sets you off into aggressive or non-assertive modes.
2. Identify the assertive state you’d like to be in. This could be relaxed, calm, articulate, confident. Think about the voice tone, the body language and the movements you make.
3. Check you really want it in this situation.
4. Now think of a previous time when you experienced this state.
5. Re-experience the state in all its representations: how you spoke, how you sat, how you looked and so on. Re-experience it at its peak.
7. Connect the old experience with the new one that you want to change. Find a simple cue or trigger that tells you to access the resourceful state.
8. Test that it works and then try it out in the real situation.
6. Affirmations. An affirmation is a written description of the assertive ”you” you would like to be. When you write it down, and use the present tense, you are providing yourself with a new self-image.
An affirmation should start with the words ”I am…” for example: ”I am a person who likes myself and am worthy of the respect of others.”
According to one researcher, just reading an affirmation has only a 10% impact on changing us; reading and picturing the affirmation in a real situation has a 55% impact; reading, picturing and feeling the emotions of the new situation we want has a 100% impact.
”I know that I am an artist.” (Beethoven)
”I am by temperament a conquistador.” (Sigmund Freud)
”I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (Jesus)
7. Role Models. All successful people use role models on whom they model themselves.
• Alexander the Great modelled himself on Achilles;
• Stravinsky modelled himself on Mozart;
• American Blues singer Ray Charles modelled himself on Nat King Cole;
• football manager Sir Alex Ferguson on Sir Matt Busby.
When you model yourself on others you can adapt not just the external features of their voice, their appearance and their body language; but how they think and the way they frame experience.
Role models of assertiveness might include real people whom you know and work with, historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc and the disabled champion Helen Keller; or cartoon characters like Popeye.
8. Scripting. Scripting is a way to turn your non-assertive situations into mini-plays which you can then act out and rehearse until you are confident that they show you in an assertive way.
In scripting, you can actually write down what you and others might say, ensuring that your replies are assertive. You can then add stage directions so that your movements and body language are also assertive.
Once you have a script ready, you can use a group to help you walk it through, chalk it through or talk it through. You can also use visualisation techniques to rehearse the scenes in your head.
© Eric Garner, ManageTrainLearn 2009