6 Ways to be Effectively Assertive at Work

What is "Assertive"? Assertive behavior exists on a continuum, balanced between passive and aggressive behavior.

Assertive communication is grounded in respect – for yourself, and for the person receiving your message. In contrast, aggressive communication is disrespectful of both parties, and ignores the recipients’ rights, boundaries and sensibilities.

Why bother?

Because assertive behavior is grounded in respect, assertive communicators are viewed as confident and capable. With practice, your assertive behavior will help you avoid being dismissed as passive, or misunderstood as difficult or uncooperative.

Six Steps to Success:

1)    Use assertive body language and tone.

Your body language and vocal tone accounts for 93% of the interpretation of your messages! When you need to be assertive, face the other person. Stand or sit up straight. Don’t use “dismissive” gestures, like waving your hands or rolling your eyes.

Keep a pleasant – but serious – facial expression. Take care not to sound whiney or abrasive. Your voice should be calm and soft.

2)    Use “I” statements.

Keep the focus of the conversation on the problem, not the other person.

“I” Statements are not accusatory or blaming – they are simple assertive statements explaining your position.

For example – “I’d like to be able to give my opinion without interruption” is much more effective than, “You’re always interrupting me”.

3)    Express ownership of your thoughts, feelings and opinions.

This works best in conjunction with the afore-mentioned “I” statement. By informing the receiver how you are affected, you provide a contextual reason for your assertion.

Some examples:

“I get angry when he breaks promises,” instead of, “He makes me angry.”

“I believe the best policy is to...” instead of, “The only sensible thing to do is…”

4)    Use facts, not judgments.

By not attaching a judgment or opinion to the facts, you minimize the need for the other person to become defensive. This strengthens your position and leads to a collaborative solution.

For example – “The punctuation could be better and the formatting is inconsistent”, is less threatening than, “This is sloppy work”.

5)    Make clear, direct, requests.

Direct requests minimize the receiver’s opportunity to say “no”.

Can you see how a request that begins with, “Will you please….?” is more effective than one that asks, “Would you mind…” – or even worse, the request that demands, “Why don’t you…?”

6)    Be polite

As you slowly implement the above strategies into your workplace behaviors, remember – being polite is just as important as being assertive.

You knew that last tip already – but it never hurts to be reminded of some basic workplace etiquette  :)

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Jennifer Albrecht is the Director of Professional Development and Senior Facilitator with Learn iT! She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop leadership capacity, improve business practices, strengthen relationships and enhance performance to achieve bottom-line results.

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