Assertiveness is a very important trait, yet people often fall into habits of being too passive or aggressive. These habits can be subconscious, and people often fail to realize how much they are losing and how many bad experiences come from poor assertiveness.
Analyze the non-assertive behavior.
Determine what the person does instead of asserting himself or herself in a specific situation. In addition to the behavior, uncover the chain of thoughts and other internal representations that take place prior to and during the non-assertive behavior. For verbal thoughts (self-talk), get a good sense of their position. For example, how much are their thoughts acting as a broadcast for someone else’s thoughts. And how much are they trying to preempt what other people might think? Dynamics such as these show problems with perceptual position misalignment. And this is a clue for you, by the way, to notice issues that you might want to handle with other patterns before continuing a process.
As for the stronger sensory elements, look at sub-modalities as well. You are looking at what drives the person toward the non-assertive behavior. Do not just assume that the sub-modalities have to be from the known driver sub-modalities (size, location, etc.). It could be any type in any modality. Be thorough in your investigation of sub-modalities in this step, because that might determine the success of the whole procedure.
Assess what stops the assertive behavior.
Notice any ways that an impulse to be assertive is stopped. One way to derive this is to simply mention two or three assertive behaviors that might apply to the situation. Then ask, “When you think of doing this, what happens?” The person is likely to describe a dominant rep system, such as the kinesthetic sense of feeling fear in their stomach, along with some thoughts. Help the person express these thoughts and develop them into specific beliefs such as, “If I asked for that, it would mean that I was a needy person. People like that are disgusting.” (Notice the nominalization regarding disgust. Who is disgusted, and why?) Clarify the ways that stopping assertiveness can be useful.
List ways the assertive behaviors can be useful.
Develop with the person a list of ways that one or more of the assertive behaviors can be useful. Make sure that this list appeals to the broadest possible spectrum of values that the person holds dear. Make sure that this includes as many selfish motives as possible, as well as any ways that the results of their assertive behavior would benefit any people or groups that the person feels are deserving. For example, if self care makes them more productive, they will be able to contribute more to the world in the long run. Also, their medical bills will be lower, so they can contribute more to their favorite cause. Be sure to include the pleasure of experiencing an assertive state that is free of guilt or other causes of shyness. As you are doing this step, be sure that you are using each element to foster a state of confident assertiveness in the person.
Another issue to consider is morality and ethics. Your client might have other parts that object such a stream of thoughts, making oneself more important in one’s eyes. Allow these parts to speak up and use the Parts Negotiation pattern is needed to make sure they do not interrupt in the rest of this procedure.
Expand the assertiveness state.
Bring the person’s attention to the ways they are beginning to experience an assertiveness state. This includes any rep system elements, including thoughts. Ask elicitation questions, such as—What do you see, hear, feel? Elicit sub-modalities as well, and maintain a high level of sensory acuity. Note which rep systems are most compelling, and of the thoughts, which values expressed by the thoughts are most compelling. Begin future pacing by, for example, asking the person to imagine carrying out assertive behavior buoyed by this state and fully expressing this state. What kind of posture, gestures and facial expressions would be expressed?
Again, if you maintain a high level of sensory acuity, you would notice their posture, gestures and facial expressions and give them verbally as feedback to your client in order to prove that the process is already working. Include a fantasy of people reacting very normally and favorably to this behavior in order to reduce the fear and create positive expectations on the subconscious level. Since tone of voice is so important in assertiveness, have the person imagine the vocal tone, volume, and pacing that are likely to gain cooperation and make the assertive requests. Again, bring up the positive feelings that go with the assertive state and behavior. Be very supportive of these feelings, and help the person amplify them. Use the sub-modalities that were most influential on this specific client.
Go through the timeline, generating examples of assertive behavior.
Have the person go through their timeline, thinking of many examples of assertive behavior. This includes any times that the person expressed an aspect of the assertive behavior. For example, they may feel badly about having said something meekly, but if they used the right words, have them focus on this very intently. The purpose of this is to modify the person’s self concept into that of an assertive person. This way they will have a greater expectation of being assertive, more permission to be assertive, and better competence at being assertive. They will also express assertive cues such as body language that set expectations in others. This will cause people to respond in ways that elicit more assertiveness in the person.
Diminish the images of non-assertive behavior.
Bring the person’s awareness back to their images of not being assertive. These images may include memories and fears. Ask them to send those images behind the assertive images. Ask them to imbue the nonassertive images with the qualities of the assertive images. For example, if the assertive images have a more lively, colorful quality, have the person modify the nonassertive images to have that quality. Have them do the same with other modalities and sub-modalities, such as vocal tone and accompanying thoughts. Move unassertive feelings to the same location as the assertive feelings, and modify the unassertive feelings to match key aspects of the assertive feelings. Continue making these adjustments until the person feels very congruent with assertiveness, even though these unassertive elements were being processed.
Go back to future pacing, asking the person to imagine carrying out assertive behavior in various situations. Be sure that they bring the assertive state into the situation, and that their future images have the qualities of the assertive images that have been developed. Ask the person to give you feedback over the coming days or weeks about any changes in their behavior that have to do with assertiveness or anything else that they think is important.