Assertiveness is one of those concepts in business that seems to divide opinion. It is viewed as either a) a really good thing that is essential to being a successful human being or b) an excuse to be obnoxious, domineering and aggressive. Of course, in reality it is neither and being assertive is not really a personality trait but a learned behaviour with balance and fairness at its core.
In every role there will be a point of conflict, with your boss, your colleagues, you customers or your suppliers. To be professional goes hand in hand with being polite and courteous but sometimes you need to be assertive to be fair, to do your job properly and to maintain respect from those around you. If you find yourself in one of these conflict situations these are our tips for being assertive without being aggressive.
Reflection & Self-awareness
Assertiveness takes confidence and to become confident in your opinions and strategies you need to take a step back and really understand other people’s points of view. If you’re not confident enough it’s likely that you will either fold with the slightest criticism or defend your idea aggressively because you don’t want to answer awkward questions. To be assertive you need to be confident in order to sell your idea convincingly. Have your facts ready and calmly persist.
Be Positive and Open to Criticism
Being assertive is finding that sweet spot between cautiously offering opinion and aggressively imposing it. Be positive in both senses of the word. Have clear ideas and present them in a positive light. Listen to questions and criticism and, if necessary, postpone responding until you have fully answered the question in your own mind. It’s much more ‘assertive’ to thank someone for their feedback, take note and assure them you’ll respond in full when you’ve investigated than to cobble together an unconvincing answer. Take control of criticism, be positive about it and don’t lose confidence.
Use Assertive Language
Using confident assertive language can subtly change perceptions of your ideas and your credibility. By saying ‘we should implement a new training programme’ rather than ‘we could’ you have instantly instilled more confidence into your idea. Try to avoid the ‘maybe’ or the ‘possibly’ when presenting an idea. No one wants to come across as pushy but if you always are peppering your sentences with disclaimers, people are going to sense your lack of confidence in your own ideas. If you’re presenting an opinion it’s worth writing down and practicing good, strong, assertive sentences. Get into the habit and eventually it will come naturally.