Self-confidence and assertiveness techniques
Occasionally, almost everyone will experience a lack of self-confidence. This is why it is important to know some easy techniques to increase your confidence and to make you feel better.
Assertiveness training is the best way to deal with those situations, both in and out of work, where you feel you lack confidence. It is a way of un-hooking yourself from the learned behaviours of the past and re-programming yourself to be more assertive. Here are some of those re-programming techniques.
1. Watch Your Self-Talk
It is often the self-talk that goes through our heads that determines how we behave in different situations. Let’s say you had an experience in your early career where you were heavily criticised by your boss in his office. Now every time you are summoned to your boss’s office, your brain re-plays the earlier experience. Your self-talk takes you back to the earlier incident and you deal with it in the same way. Only by training yourself to change the old self-talk can you break out of this cycle.
2. Use the ABC Technique
The ABC technique is a useful way to break old patterns of behaviour. The A stands for the Activating event or incident; the B for the Beliefs you have about it; and the C for the Consequences. Taking the incident above, you cannot change the Activating event but you can change your beliefs. Now, instead of a belief that this is a bad experience, tell yourself that this is a good one. As a result the consequences will be different.
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 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” 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. Work on Your Self-Esteem
You can always do work on your self-esteem, particularly whenever you feel low. Love yourself fully, warts and all. See your imperfections only as the things that make you more human. Never, never compare yourself with others. Value your uniqueness.
5. Practise Affirmations
An affirmation is a written description of the assertive “you” you want to be such as, “I am confident in every team meeting” or “I handle every meeting with the boss well”. Practise speaking these affirmations out loud and at the same time feel the feelings you want to go with them. 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.
6. Practise Visualisations
Visualisation has a powerful effect in re-programming the way we handle key situations. Simply close your eyes in a relaxed state and play out any incident where you want to be more assertive in your mind’s eye. It is like a video that you can play and re-play as often as you want.
7. Get a Role Model
All successful people have role models. Alexander the Great had Achilles. Stravinsky had Mozart. American Blues singer Ray Charles modelled himself on Nat King Cole. When you learn from an assertive role model, don’t just copy their outward behaviour. Try to think and feel like them and get into their frames of reference. 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.
What to keep in mind
- One reason for wanting to become more assertive is to change confrontational relationships.
- Assertiveness training re-programmes the blame and life script strategies which we learn from childhood.
- Rational emotive therapy allows us to choose how to react in different life situations .
- When we exchange the “musts” in our life for preferences, we take control of how we want to be.
- To avoid being a victim of what life throws at us, we can learn to go for what we want but, if we don’t get it, to let go lightly.
- Instead of letting our self-talk lead us into downward spirals of panic, we can interrupt the cycle and create positive reactions instead.