How to be More Assertive at Work – Part One

Apart from our family and personal life, most of us spend the majority of our time at work. This week’s blog is devoted to how to be healthy, positive and assertive at work. Whether you encounter situations that require you to be assertive on a daily, monthly or occasional basis, this article should assist you in dealing with handling work-related situations properly.

Unlike our personal lives, it is important to be able to clearly ask for what you want and need and express what you do not want and need in a calm, professional manner. Work is not the place for emotionally charged, negative communication. It is important, particularly at work, that we remain as composed as possible when we communicate. That is not to say you never will become emotional in a work environment.

People can and do get irritated, frustrated, disappointed, excited, or elated at work, sometimes to the point of crying. This, like our regular lives, is normal. However, showing extreme negative emotion on a regular basis will not help you get what you want and need from superiors or even colleagues. Frequent aggressive, hostile outbursts may intimidate people into giving you what you want temporarily or shock them into silence. Likewise, weepy drama may grant you a sympathy win, but either way, in the long run, you will not be viewed as a valuable, level-headed employee if you use and abuse these tactics. You may even forfeit a chance of promotion or even lose your job. Making enemies or having superiors view you as the irrational or unstable will not help you achieve much in the end. A far better idea is to find one or two co-workers with whom you can form friendships. Not only will this make work more enjoyable, but you also will be able to vent any negative emotions to them rather than to superiors. Likewise, you can be a listening ear for them when work gets difficult.

Some people find it hard to be assertive at work.

So, what is assertiveness and not belligerence? Well, firstly, try assertive communication. This is the ability to express positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open, honest and direct way. It recognises our rights whilst still respecting the rights of others. It allows us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions without judging or blaming other people. And it allows us to constructively confront and find a mutually satisfying solution where conflict exists. Why do this? Well, all of us use assertive behaviour at times. Quite often, when we feel vulnerable or unsure of ourselves, we may resort to submissive, manipulative or aggressive behaviour. Yet being trained in assertive communication actually increases the appropriate use of this sort of behaviour. It enables us to swap old behaviour patterns for a more positive approach to life.

But what if you are a naturally shy person? What if it’s not anger-issues you have a problem with, but being heard at all? Sadly, being quiet can often get misinterpreted as being aloof or uninterested. Don’t let a naturally quiet demeanour send a message that isn’t a fair or accurate measure of you. Welcome a little discomfort, and move out of your comfort zone – even if you begin with small steps!

Speak in Headlines

When sharing an idea or expressing your thoughts to your boss or colleagues, try to think of the headline you want to communicate in advance and stick to that when relaying your message. This little trick will help you to share your thoughts concisely and clearly, without rambling. It also helps you to make your point with more assertion – and that’s a big plus for the shy ones. Another important point to remember is to be careful not to end a statement with a questioning tone, as that comes across as you having doubt in what you’re communicating.

Body Language Speaks Volumes

Maintain good posture and keep eye contact with whoever it is you’re communicating with as it radiates an overall feeling of confidence both in what you are saying and the person that you are. 

Be Present

Being there doesn’t always mean you’re present and in the moment. Demonstrate that you’re completely in the moment by actively listening, acknowledging cues in a conversation, and asking for clarification when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It shows you’re unafraid to both acknowledge you didn’t understand something and get the insight you need. It also shows you’re engaged with the speaker.

Next time, we’ll share some more tips on how to be more assertive at work. 

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How to be More Assertive at Work – Part Two