How to be assertive at work

How to be assertive at work

Ever finished a meeting or conversation and wished you’d spoken up? Perhaps you generally feel uncertain about voicing your opinions? Assertive people have the confidence to make their point or react to situations firmly and fairly. Responding in a constructive, controlled and rational way means they often end up with a much better result that benefits everyone. Assertiveness is an important people skill and it’s one you can learn and continue to shape as you deal with different situations.

How to be assertive

There are many different ways you can be assertive in and out of work. Here are a handful of them to get you started:

Type

How to be assertive

Examples

Responsive

Find out the other person’s needs or feelings in a way which doesn’t upset them

What’s your view on….  How does that make you feel? How can I help you to succeed?

Empathetic

State what you need and want but show you see the other person’s point of view

I appreciate your view on this, but in order for us to take this forward with the team we should consider these other options as well

Discrepancy

Point out the difference between  what you agreed and what is actually happening

You committed to deliver this piece of work by yesterday, can you please give me an update on where you are so we can complete this

Negative feelings

Point out how the other person’s behaviour affects you.

I’d like to see how we can work together better as sometimes our conversations leave me feeling upset

Consequences

Tell the other person what will happen if they don’t change their behaviour

I’m concerned that if you continue to manage that customer like that, they will take their business elsewhere, how can we work together on this?

Top tips for becoming more assertive

1. Practise, practise, practise

Particularly in presentations or meetings, assertiveness is a useful ally. Being prepared will help give you confidence and keep nerves in check. Rehearse out loud, even though it may feel a little strange, so you get used to the sound of your own voice. Ask your family, or friends, if you can practise in front of them and get some constructive feedback.

2. Watch and learn

Where can you see professionals in action? How do they behave? What’s their body language like? There are loads of talks and speeches online, such as TED Talks, or you could speak with staff at university or work whose presenting style you admire. Make a list of the things people say and do that make you feel they are confident and assertive. Check out how television and radio presenter, Jameela Jamil boosts her confidence and self-esteem.

3. Jump in

At some point you’re going to have to ask that question in the meeting, or trust your judgement and voice your opinion to colleagues. If possible, think about the questions or topic of the meeting beforehand, and then jump in. It can seem scary, but the sooner you embrace your fears and give it a go, the quicker your nerves will start to fade, the more confidence you’ll have and the easier you’ll find being assertive. And people will respect that.

4. Review and improve

If things don’t go your way, don’t give up or give yourself a hard time. Reassess the experience to see if there are changes you could make to your approach or behaviour. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that ‘we learn from our mistakes’.

If you feel you don’t have the personality or confidence to be more assertive, remember that it sometimes takes time, effort and a bit of practice. Assertive people aren’t always born that way.

Feeling confident? Check out how to build other useful skills for work here.

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