Do you feel respected in the workplace? Are you accepted by others and are they receptive to what you have to say? If not, it’s probably high time that you asserted yourself better.
If you find yourself taking on more work than you can handle or always seem to be the one who gets the coffee, chances are you need to learn to be more assertive. It may seem helpful or easier to always be agreeable, but it can leave you feeling stressed, unappreciated or even invisible.
Whether you are dealing with your boss, interacting with other departments, negotiating the best deal for supplies or booking a hotel room, a little assertiveness can make you more efficient, more successful and more likely to enjoy your role.
Assertiveness is about being strong, able to express your opinion, standing up for yourself, negotiating clear boundaries and not letting others take advantage. It also conveys self-esteem and capability and will help you to be more effective and successful in your career. While some of us are more naturally assertive than others, it is possible for anyone to learn the behaviours and attributes required to come across as a more assertive person.
People often worry that by asserting their needs and feelings they will come across as pushy or aggressive, or become unpopular with their colleagues. However, being assertive differs from being aggressive. Assertive behaviour allows you to stand up for yourself and speak honestly in a productive way, without alienating others.
Becoming more assertive is a process which takes time and practice. Start by learning to assert yourself in smaller situations before you confront your boss about a promotion!
Think about someone who you think is assertive, and use them as a role model. What about them is assertive? How do they behave?
You don't need to be assertive about everything, its okay to let a few things go or you risk seeming overly dominant.
Think about your appearance – We may not like to think it but people really do judge on appearances, so to be taken seriously make sure you look clean, co-ordinated, ironed and practical.
Know beforehand what you want to say or hope to achieve from an interaction, don't just dive in. If you are planning to speak to someone, take a moment to think about where you want it to go.
Be open to the possibility of a positive outcome for both sides, not just yourself.
Engage the person at their level – If they are sitting down, you should also sit, rather than looming over them. Sitting down when they are standing can appear submissive.
Use confident body language – Your body language tells other people how you feel and how confident you are before you've even spoken to them. If you don't feel confident you can still act it, so shoulders back and chin up!
Try not to fidget or cover your mouth when you talk, it makes you look nervous and uncomfortable.
Make eye contact – It shows you are confident and will not back down easily. To avoid appearing slightly odd or even threatening, remember to look away occasionally! If you struggle with eye contact, try sometimes looking at another part of their face such as their mouth, rather than directly in the eye. When you look away, look to the side as you would if you were thinking, not at the floor.
Match their volume and tone of voice – It's okay to raise your voice slightly when making a point, but definitely avoid shouting. If you find yourselves shouting take time to calm down before resuming the discussion.
Speak clearly and slowly – Rushing when you talk tells others that you don't expect them to take the time to listen to you or be interested in what you say.
Be aware of your feelings – If you feel angry or upset, politely excuse yourself and continue the discussion another time. Try to stay calm and avoid getting emotional for a productive discussion.
Learn to say no – There are times when it is perfectly reasonable to politely say no, instead of taking on more than you can handle, and it will earn you more respect than agreeing to unfeasible tasks that you will not be able to complete.
Give clear decisions and answers – Be direct and don't shift decision making onto other people.
Speak your mind – But stick to the facts. It's good to have an opinion and to voice it, but don't belittle or offend other people.
Remember to also listen to what others have to say and you will earn the respect to be listened to in return.