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How to be More Assertive at Work

by nick

If you want to be successful at work, you have to be assertive. People often mistake assertiveness with aggressive behaviour, but both are completely different. Being assertive means knowing what you want and what your limitations are and being able to express that in a confident and respective manner.

People are often afraid of being too assertive at work, as they don’t want to come across as pushy and rude. Firstly, being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy. It doesn’t have to be confrontational or rude. It simply means being strong, honest, straight-forward and having the ability to speak your mind in a productive and tactful manner.

So if you want to show others that you mean business at work without causing upset, here are a few tips to help you be more assertive in the office.

Change your mindset – Remember that you have a right to be heard and that your opinions and needs should be considered when decisions are being made. If you’re often afraid of speaking up, ask yourself, “what’s the worst thing that can possibly happen if I make my feelings heard in a respectful manner?” More often than not you’ll realise that there’s nothing to worry about.

Display Confidence – To communicate effectively, you must show confidence in yourself and your ideas. It’s much easier for someone to take advantage of you if you seem tame and submissive rather than calm and self-confident. Don’t be intimidated by those in authority. Maintain a self-assured image; face your co-workers when speaking, maintain eye contact (especially when you’re listening), keep your shoulders squared with your chin up and avoid fidgeting or covering your mouth when you speak.

Show leadership qualities – Showing leadership skills is an important part of speaking in an assertive manner. To be assertive in a conversation, you need to lead that conversation.

Speak slowly and clearly – Speak slowly and clearly, and stay on topic. Talking fast is an admission that you don’t expect people to take the time to listen. Speaking slowly, on the other hand, will show to people that you’re worth the wait. Use a clear, calm voice. Don’t be loud, just enough to make yourself heard. If people aren’t listening to you, say “excuse me” clearly and firmly, but never be apologetic.

Use “I” phrases – Be willing to express your opinions and feelings by saying something like, “I need the report completed and on my desk by close of play today” or “ I need more time to consider these options, so may we meet again tomorrow at 9 a.m. to review?”

Say what’s on your mind – If you have something on your mind, share your feelings freely. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion.

Know the facts – Ensure that you know all the facts in advance. Do some research and have your evidence ready to hand. You’ll then be able to make a strong case, and also improve your reputation for someone being organised and firm.

Say exactly what you mean – No one likes to listen to someone drone on. Remember that the more you say, the less is heard. Keep to the topic in question, use facts, and be conversational – not confrontational.

Anticipate people’s behaviour and prepare your own responses – Role-play in your mind how things are likely to unfold. Prepare your responses to different scenarios that you think could happen. Being well prepared will increase your self-confidence and assist you to be assertive about what’s important to you.

Use good opening questions – The use of good questions will expose flaws in other peoples arguments. For example:

What’s your evidence?
How did you go about looking for alternative solutions?
Who have you consulted about this?
How have you measured (say whatever the problem is here)?
Don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off, and make sure that they actually answer your questions. If your question is ignored or avoided, return to it or re-phrase it.

Address issues directly – If you have a problem with someone or something, don’t just leave it to escalate. Confront the situation head on by speaking with the people directly involved.

Don’t make demands – Just because you’re being assertive, doesn’t mean that you’ll always get your own way. Some requests you’ll get, some you won’t. Being a professional is all about compromise and you must be willing to negotiate.

Control your emotions – Being aggressive or letting your frustration get the better of you in a professional environment is a sign of weakness. Being assertive means clearly and calmly communication what you want, whilst being in control. And the whole point of being assertive is to get what you want. By being aggressive, you’ll piss people off, you’ll have lost control, and you won’t get what you want. If you’re feeling stressed, go somewhere private for a few minutes, take deep breaths and re-focus yourself. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.

Remember your value – It’s easier to be assertive and display confidence when you remember that you’re a valuable member of the firm you work for. Always contribute in meetings and let your voice be heard. Remember that you have something valuable to say, just as others do.

Learn to say no – You’ll sometimes need to say “No” to your co-worker’s or boss’s requests. If you have other priorities that are preventing you from taking on an extra project, assert your needs and provide a good reason for it. Offer an alternative way to help that is more realistic for you.

Don’t feel guilty for being assertive – It’s always ok to stand up for yourself, your ideas, and your opinions. Being assertive is very important when communicating with others. Keep practicing, assess situations, and use your new found confidence to emphasize rather than provoke. That way, you’ll gain the respect you deserve in the workplace.

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