In today’s blog entry I want to consider assertiveness and confidence.

It is common practice in therapy to teach clients assertiveness skills this is done as an isolated programme or as part of a wider issue, such as an anxiety disorder. In our Southampton therapy clinic I encourage most clients to learn basic assertiveness and confidence building skills.
The benefits of learning assertiveness skills do however reach further than the therapeutic environment. Assertive skills help us communicate and aid self reliance, building our confidence.
To begin with I want to explain what it means to be assertive before I offer up some self-help tips and ideas that you can use in the real world.

What does it mean to be assertive?

Being assertive does not mean getting your own way all the time or being the boss.
Being assertive is about being able to express yourself on the world in a way that suits both you and others.
Assertiveness is about balance, it considers how a message is expressed and received.

The 3 most common ways a message is expressed are:

  • Non assertive
  • Aggressive
  • Assertive

An easy way to understand this is to think of a scenario and then observe it from 2 perspectives, the sender and the receiver. The ideal outcome for most situations is that both parties feel satisfied (self-enhanced) and neither feel undermined (self-denied).

Here is an example –

You and a friend decide to order take away. Your friend suggests you order Chinese, which you do not like.

Non assertive response = You agree to Chinese food even though you don’t like it
Aggressive response = You say “no” you will only eat pizza, demanding that is what you order.
Assertive = You express that you don’t fancy Chinese and offer up a few alternatives until you find something you both fancy.

So let’s briefly look at the affects of expressing messages in these ways –

  • Non assertive = Sender (you) do not enjoy the meal. Perhaps you feel frustrated and a failure for being walked over. Goal is not achieved (self-denying).
    Receiver (friend) feels guilty when they realise you did not enjoy meal. Achieves goal at senders expense (self-enhancing at senders expense).
  • Aggressive = Sender (you) feels guilty. Achieves goal at receivers expense (self-enhancing at receivers expense).
    Receiver (friend) does not enjoy meal. Feels walked over and undermined Goal is not achieved (self-denying).
  • Assertive = Sender (you) enjoy meal, feel good about self, Achieves goal (self-enhancing)
    Receiver (friend) enjoys meal, feels good about self, Achieves goal (self-enhancing)

How can we become more assertive?

Learning to be assertive is about practicing certain skills.
These skills help us to communicate with each other in balanced ways, enabling both parties to feel they have freedom of choice.

It is important to understand that exercising good assertive skills will not always result in what maybe deemed ‘fair’ results. We must also consider ‘circumstance’ and make a judgement, which in some scenarios will involve not expressing yourself assertively (a knife wielding aggressor might not be the person to strike a balance with).

So outside of scenarios where it is best to accept another’s direction without discussion, what can we do to improve our assertive skills?

Research and work in the late 60’s and 70’s by Californian psychiatrist Michael Serber has influenced the field of assertiveness training greatly.
Serbers work and substantial research by psychologists Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons teach us that assertive behaviour has some key components. Once understood, these components can be developed to improve our assertive skills.

Below is an outline of the components which can affect how we express ourselves.

If you would like help becoming more assertive and want to make positive changes in your life
Southampton Clinical Hypnotherapy programmes can help you learn these skills.

Components of assertive behaviour

Eye Contact – Sincerity and directness can be communicated through appropriate levels of comfortable eye contact.

Body Posture – Our posture conveys a message. Simple awareness of posture can aid communication.
An adult who crouches to meet a young child at their level will improve the responses they receive.

Distance & Physical contact – Learning to appreciate how we communicate non-verbally is important. Standing close to a person can either aid intimacy or create discomfort.

Gestures – Gestures and movements can add openness to our communication, demonstrate an uneasiness, aggression or warmth

Facial expressions – Our facial expressions are key when indicating how we feel

Voice tone, inflection and volume – How we express ourselves vocally is just as important as the words we choose to speak

Fluency – The flow of our speech helps us express ourselves in a clear manner and can help us deliver our message

Timing – Asserting yourself spontaneously will help us not to dwell on things however we can also choose to take our time. Learning that it’s never ‘Too late’ is very important

Listening – Listening attentively demonstrates respect for others and helps you make balanced interpretations. This is one of the most important skills we can develop.

Thoughts – Developing an assertive style of thinking underpins successful expression

Content – Often just saying something can help when learning to be more assertive, however being conscious of the receiver is vitally important. Honesty is fundamental, coupled with consideration for the other person.

There are many techniques for developing and improving the components of assertive behaviour.
Southampton Clinical Hypnotherapy programmes can help you learn the skills required to become more assertive and confident.

Next I want to offer up a nice exercise that you can use to help you become more assertive.

How can I become more self-assertive?

Here is a nice little exercise that will get you started.

Set aside ½ an hour quiet time for this exercise.

Before you begin you will firstly need to understand how to ‘set a goal’ and secondly how to enter/exit hypnosis*.
The SCH guide to self-hypnosis, covers all this.

Once you have set your goal you will need a plan to implement during hypnosis.
A common goal of many people learning assertive skills is to be able to express themselves more at work. This plan will work just as well in situations involving personal relationships.

The Goal
Make your goal specific – In our example our client states that a senior member of staff keeps off loading tasks onto them that are not part of their job description. They feel intimidated by the senior staff member and find it hard to say no. This is making it difficult to keep on top of their work load.
The goal is therefore to confidently explain to the senior staff member that they will not be able to complete the extra work.

The plan
During hypnosis they are going to rehearse the scene in which they discuss the work load issue with the senior member of staff.

An easy way to do this is before you begin write out what it is you want to say.
Then write out the different replies you believe the senior member of staff could have.
Next write out how you will respond, continue until the situation is successfully resolved and both parties are happy (self-enhanced).

Top tips – As you plan and explore the scene, you will want to think about how you will best express yourself in the scenario.
Think about someone who you perceive as assertive carrying out the exercise, “what is it they would do that would achieve a successful outcome, that you are currently not doing”.

– Use the below chart to assess
which of the key assertive components you could rehearse and improve during self hypnosis.

Assertive skill I need work I am ok I am excellent

Eye contact
Body posture
Distance/physical contact
Facial expressions
Voice tone, inflection and volume

So now we have a goal and a plan it is time to implement the plan.

First induce and deepen hypnosis
Next imagine yourself in the scenario whilst remaining calm and relaxed. Make it as vivid as possible. What do you see, hear, feel etc? Absorb yourself in the image as best as you can (remember not to worry too much if the imagery is not crystal clear just notice what you notice, that will be enough for you).

Run the scenario, from start to finish as many times as required to attain a successful balanced outcome.
In doing so imagine yourself behaving assertively, making improvements to your chosen key components and resolving the issue in a balanced appropriate fashion.

Top Tip – Remember the assertive components. What things can you do to behave more assertively in the scene? What would that assertive person do differently?

Exit Hypnosis

You can run this exercise for many different scenarios.
Once you have completed the exercise, get out and test your skills.
You can start small and try out being assertive at the local shop or dive in and use your new skills with the boss.

Have you ever said to yourself “I wish I was more confident” or “if only I didn’t let X,Y or Z walk all over me”?

Contact us today to find out more about becoming assertive and building confidence.
*Hypnosis is not suitable for all clients and results vary person to person. All our programmes can be delivered effectively without the use of hypnosis.
Learn more here