Are you assertive or does someone always get the better of you? Somehow you end up saying yes to things you didn’t want to, loaning items you preferred not to, or worse still always lending money but then being too uncomfortable to ask for it back even after it is long overdue? (I’m always surprised at how many people face this problem!)
Maybe you swing the other way – becoming too easily aggressive when conversations get strained?
Everyone has rights – to speak and to be heard. Make sure you are not lost in the crowd – especially if you want to progress in your career.
Here are some great guiding principles for everyone to be more confident and assertive:
1. Communicate confidently
Make sure your tone of voice is not whiny, too soft and that your words are not ‘maybe’ and ‘possibly’. Lose the long pauses and ums from your talk. Make sure your stand up straight and look people in the eye, you don’t want your body language to be wimpy.
Express your ideas and opinions – explain your thoughts and opinions without an upward inflection at the end as if seeking approval. Learn to make a confident finale to each sentence. Feel comfortable expressing your views even when they differ from others.
Manage interruptions firmly but politely. When there are unimportant interruptions – resist involvement or just be clear about the work you are trying to get finished.
2. Offer ideas and suggestions
Confidently suggest a course of action when the team is facing a problem and you have an idea for going forward. At team meetings be proactive with ideas and useful suggestions. Share expertise with your team, and be a person that enjoys taking on a challenge, or offers to help. Be someone who helps the team achieve results.
Be patient when people are slow to understand your instructions or point of view.
3. Avoid being manipulated
Make sure you are NOT a manipulator! The best thing to do is to RECOGNISE the manipulation first so you can assertively get in first. But always show respect for other people’s point of view.
Remember that others have the right to make requests of you – but you have the right to say “no”, especially where you feel very strongly the request is unfair or inappropriate. You don’t have to give excuses.
In work situations saying no may not always be the best practice thing to do. Perhaps a better way would be to counter with a request to first review the priorities. Keep in mind – “stay professional” when it comes to answer a request.
Listen to others, value their thoughts and ideas without interrupting or disagreeing.
4. Control your own emotions
When people around you get angry – stay calm, because if you get anxious and feel bad and say to yourself “I am anxious” it just makes it worse and you are far more likely to become a non-assertive turtle.
Don’t feel embarrassed asking someone for help. If you can see you need assistance – just ask, don’t focus on how bad you feel asking!
Just be clear and explain what you need and why, not forcefully – factually. If there is a time component add the deadline or critical factors. Don’t expect others to be mind readers.
And if you feel stressed renegotiate your priorities and responsibilities. Get agreement on them and don’t feel bad discussing the priorities with each new added last minute responsibility that throws you into a stress zone.
If you disagree with someone – always be polite and courteous. Even with difficult demanding customers, be professional an stay in control.
Never ever respond aggressively and avoid blaming or accusing when things go wrong. Your consistent calm positive communication will always be appreciated!
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.