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Automessages and their effectiveness in developing assertiveness

Automessages and their effectiveness in developing assertiveness

June 25, 2022

Assertiveness is one of the main components in the competent application of so-called social skills. This capacity allows defend your ideas, rights or opinions in a respectful but firm way . A very important part in the exercise of assertiveness lies in the type of verbalizations we make to ourselves in situations that involve a certain difficulty when it comes to expressing our will clearly.

In this article we will see how Autostimals can help us build a much more assertive style of communication .

  • Related article: "Self-Instruction Training and Stress Inoculation Technique"

The stages of action

As proposed by Meichembaum (1987) in his Stress Inoculation Model, the "self-instructions" can influence the final efficacy of the expressed behavior, since they affect the type of coping that we put into action at the motivational level, in the set of feelings generated by that situation and in the kind of cognitions that we are going to elaborate once the action is finished.


As pointed out by Castanyer (2014), self-messages or self-instructions operate at four different times configuring both thoughts, emotions and assertive behaviors:

1. Prior to the situation

Usually the mind itself tends to prepare for its future coping by speculating on possible ways of how it can develop.

2. At the beginning of the situation

In this point anxious thoughts gain intensity , and accustomed to activate memories of previous situations (both those that have been satisfactorily overcome and those in which the result has been unpleasant).

3. When the situation gets complicated

Although it does not always happen, at this moment the most stressful and irrational thoughts increase. Due to the intense character of the emotions derived by this type of cognitions, the person will file this part of the experience more easily and forcefully , conditioning future similar situations in greater depth.


4. Once the situation is over

At this time an evaluative analysis is carried out and certain conclusions are drawn about this event.

The experience on the part of the person on each of these four moments is equally important and determinant of the attitude and the final behavior that will manifest before the feared situation.

Therefore, naturally, the individual tends to collect all kinds of information to contrast or refute the thoughts that operate in each of the four phases exposed. For it Comparisons will be made with similar past situations or the verbal and nonverbal language of the other people involved in the situation will be carefully evaluated ("he has answered me in a brusque way, which is annoying with me and we will not reach any agreement").

  • Maybe you're interested: "Assertiveness: 5 basic habits to improve communication"

Strategies to modulate the autossajes

These are the different applications of the autossajes .


Analyze to what extent the idea is irrational

Given the relevance of the cognitive and emotional analyzes that the concrete situation provokes, a key point resides in verifying the level of rationality on which these thoughts are based. As a rule, it may happen that they are starting up overly emotional reasoning , absolute and irrational about these generated beliefs

A first effective strategy to apply can be to contrast some of the ideas that come to mind and assess whether they coincide with any of the so-called cognitive distortions that Aaron Beck proposed in his Cognitive Theory some decades ago:

1. Polarized or dichotomous thinking (all or nothing) - Interpreting events and people in absolute terms, without taking into account the intermediate degrees.

2. Overgeneralization: take isolated cases to generalize a valid conclusion.

3. Selective abstraction: focus exclusively on certain negative aspects excluding other characteristics.

4. Disqualify the positive: is to consider positive experiences for arbitrary reasons.

5. Draw hasty conclusions : assume something negative when there is no empirical support for it.

6. Projection: project in the other anguished thoughts or feelings that are not accepted as their own.

  • Related article: "The projection: when we criticize others, we talk about ourselves"

7. Magnification and Minimization : overestimate and underestimate the way of being of events or people.

8. Emotional reasoning: formulate arguments based on how a person "feels" instead of being based on objective reality.

9."You should": concentrate on what you think you "should" be instead of seeing things as they are, without considering the situational context.

10. Labeled : it consists of assigning global labels instead of describing the observed behavior objectively. The verb "to be" is used instead of "to be".

11. Personalization: assume oneself 100% of the responsibility of a situation or event.

12. Confirmatory bias : tendency to bias reality by paying attention only to confirmatory information and ignoring the data that contradict it.

Cognitive restructuring

A second fundamental step consists in an exercise of questioning of worrying and irrational thoughts by using the technique of cognitive restructuring, a method that has great effectiveness within Cognitive Therapies.

Answering questions such as the following, among many others, the level of pessimism or catastrophism can be lowered granted to the assessment of the impending event:

  • What objective data exist in favor of the threatening thought and what data do I have against?
  • If irrational thinking is fulfilled, could you face the situation? How would he do it?
  • Is the initial reasoning based on logical or rather emotional grounds?
  • What real probability exists that the threatening belief occurs? And what does not happen?

Application of autossajes

Finally, the generation of substitute self-messages of the initials . These new beliefs must have greater realism, objectivity and positivism. For this, Castanyer (2014) proposes to distinguish the type of self-instruction that we must give ourselves in each of the four stages previously described:

Autosames previous phase

In the phase of "previous self-messages" the verbalizations should be directed to counteract the anticipatory threatening thought with another more realistic and to guide the person both cognitively and behaviorally to carry out an active confrontation of the situation. In this way it is possible to avoid that the individual generates worrying ideas that may block your assertive response .

Example: "What exactly do I have to do to face this situation and how am I going to do it?"

Orient yourself towards coping

At the moment of the beginning of the situation, the self-instructions are oriented to remember own coping strategies and to focus the person exclusively on the behavior that is being exercised at that moment.

Example: "I am capable of achieving it since I have already achieved it before. I'm going to concentrate only on what I'm doing right now. "

If a "tense moment" occurs, the subject should be said phrases that allow you to endure the situation , that they reduce the activation, increase the calmness and that they move away the pessimistic ideas.

Example: "Now I'm having a hard time, but I'll be able to get over it, I'm not going to let myself be carried away by catastrophism. I'm going to take a deep breath and relax. "

At the time after the situation, it must be try that the verbalizations express the positive aspect of having faced the situation (independently of the result), emphasizing those concrete actions in which it has been improved with respect to the past and avoiding self-reproaches.

Example: "I have tried to stay firm and I have managed to argue my position for the first time without raising my voice".

By way of conclusion: enjoying a better assertiveness

As it has been observed, the act of lending Attention to the messages that we send when we face a problematic situation Analyzing them and reformulating them in a more realistic way can facilitate the way towards a greater mastery of assertiveness.

In addition, it seems to be very important to focus on the moment in which one is acting without anticipating or anticipating possible imaginary scenarios that we elaborate in a pessimistic key and that objectively have a low probability of real occurrence.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castanyer, O. (2014) Assertiveness, expression of healthy self-esteem (37th ed.) Desclée de Brouver Editorial: Bilbao.
  • Méndez, J and Olivares, X. (2010) Behavior Modification Techniques (6th of.). Editorial New Library: Madrid.

MARITAL AND RELATIONSHIP WISDOM 1 (June 2022).


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