Turn on your assertive powers, without being aggressive



Sometimes we forget how much our attitude and communication style impacts those around us, and ultimately impacts our career opportunities.

Everyone needs to communicate assertively, not aggressively. Respectful, assertive behaviours at work are essential for cohesive teams. Managers must lead the way by creating a positive workplace culture with assertive but respectful communication.

We all have a range of positive and negative thoughts and ‘messages’. Some messages are voiced, some remain as underlying thoughts. We all have the power to choose our mood and attitudes.

We can switch on positive assertive messages if we choose.

Sadly some people have these underlying thoughts:


Being aggressive gets results

I don’t care if I am rude

Some people need to be bullied

I don’t have time for shy people

Being harsh is just the way I am

There is no room for aggressive behaviour at work. Customers, fellow staff, managers and contractors all require assertive communication.

Being assertive gets positive results

Showing respect makes me proud

All people need encouragement

I will help others to be assertive

I can be assertive without being mean

The other inappropriate style of communication is being non-assertive. Under-confidence must be replaced with skills to stand up for oneself and be assertive


Assert yourself without excuses or explanation


Many people trying to be assertive feel the need to give excuses. So, if somebody asks to borrow your recently acquired video camera, you might give an excuse like, “No, I need it tonight.” All the other person needs to say is, “That’s OK I can wait a couple of days.” Giving excuses is a trap because the other person now backs you into a corner and you feel compelled to give in or make a new excuse. The skill required is to give clear statements of what you want or you do not want without giving excuses.

I am not loaning out the camera.

I am sorry but I am not loaning out the camera.

You can show you understand the other person and their situation, by acknowledging their request, even though you are unwilling to say yes.

I understand you need to film the birthday, and you will have to find a camera, but I am not lending you my camera.


Give a roadblock explanation


Whilst excuses can sometimes back you into a corner, a ‘roadblock’ explanation can end the discussion. For example, if someone wants to borrow your car, you might have good reasons for it not to be borrowed that are genuine and are “end of discussion” reasons.

Ever since the emergency we always have the car ready to go and would never leave ourselves carless again, not even for a few hours.

This car is only insured for my partner and I as drivers.

No-one under the age of 25 can drive this car.

Last time we loaned the car it got smashed and was off the road for a week, so we made a decision then never to loan it again.


Counteracting insistence from a non-listener


If somebody wants something you are unable or unwilling to give, and they are unwilling to listen to any explanation as to why you cannot say “yes” simply repeat your message in a slow, calm voice. Do this over and over until the person understands what you are saying. For example, “I’m sorry, but I cannot cash this check today… I’m sorry, I cannot cash this cheque today.”


Agree with justified criticism


When someone is angry and their accusations are accurate or justified, agree with them and it will in most cases reduce anger.

You are right … it was a mistake.

That’s a very valid point and I agree with you.

I’m sorry, you are right. So let’s move forward and work out how to fix this.

 You may need to couple this strategy with developing a solution or agreeing to a compromise. Come up with a solution that satisfies both parties.


Use your body language and tone


Most of the impact of how we are received is through our body language and then through our tone. Over the phone it is mainly tone. To be assertive make good eye contact, stand firm and erect, use a calm tone of voice and avoid using any accusing or aggressive gestures such as pointing at the other person.

Adjust your thinking scripts. Respect your rights and respect theirs. This is the essence of being assertive.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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