A 2019 study by Top Interview found that 70% of employers prioritize assertiveness as the top quality they look for in prospective employees. In turn, 94% of employees say they feel more effective when they are confident in communicating at work. But with only 49% of Americans liking their job and 25% feeling like they have a voice, it’s easy to see why assertiveness is a skill worth working on.
What Is Assertiveness?
There is a difference between assertiveness and aggression, but some folks confuse the two.
Assertiveness is more about stating what you want or need, but still being considerate of the wants and needs of others. Assertiveness is the application of emotionally intelligent confidence with a focus on clear communication. It doesn’t require emotional, intellectual, or physical force because it prioritizes positive outcomes.
Aggression is demanding what you want, regardless of the circumstances often at the cost of others. Those who are aggressive are often described as being pushy or as a bully. This technique might get you some incremental success in the short term but it is a glass ceiling long term.
Practice these strategies to become more assertive at work:
1. Recognize Your Own Value. The first step for getting others to recognize your value is to acknowledge it yourself. Always remember that you are worthy of a spectacular life and accept the fact that the responsibility is yours to create one.
2. Body Language – Walk, Sit & Stand Confidently. Your shoulders tell the truth about your confidence level. So, send the right message. When you come into the room, stand tall and keep your head up and your shoulders back. Avoid slinking, sulking or looking down at the floor. Do not slouch when seated. An alert body will keep your mind focused on assertive interaction.
3. Greet Others. When you make eye contact, smile. Greet your coworkers and other people around you. When talking, say their name to reinforce your emotional and intellectual investment in them. Compliment something about them, make a positive personal comment, connect with them about something you have in common or ask them about a topic that you know matters to them.
When people feel like you notice and pay attention to them, they’re more likely to look upon you and what you want favorably. This isn’t manipulation, it’s the intentional relationship building foundation of networking.
4. Create Boundaries & Enforce Them. Others treat you how you let them. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But they will also mirror your behaviors. So set boundaries for yourself and establish the tone. Your co-workers will follow suit. When a co-worker crosses a line or lets you down, address it. Immediately. Don’t wait or second guess yourself. Check your emotions at the door and state what the issue was. Tell them what your expectations are and what needs to happen moving forward.
5. Volunteer to Lead a Project. This is the gasoline of professional growth. Ask your immediate supervisor how you can get more leadership opportunities. When you’re in charge of group tasks or projects, others get used to listening to what you have to say and supporting your initiative. But your language is important. When the team wins, use the phrase “we.” When the team fails, take responsibility and use the phrase “I” to describe the situation. Nothing will push your boundaries like leadership opportunities. Seek out as many as you possibly can.
6. Sit Up Front. Take a place next to the action during meetings and speak up every time you talk. Ask questions, even if it’s to confirm what you believe the answer should be. Mindful engagement and interaction creates trust with your peers and lets your leadership know you have a perspective that needs to be heard. This includes Zoom or Skype meetings. Participate fully.
7. If You Want or Need Something, Ask. How many problems or deficiencies go unresolved because of poor communication? Speak confidently, let others know what you need and how they can help. Most people will jump at the chance to provide value to the team, they’re just waiting to hear a voice to guide them.
8. Offer Your Opinions, Ideas, and Solutions. Take ownership of the environment around you and the people in it. Use first person (I want, I feel, I think). You can start small at first, if that’s easier for you, by commenting on smaller things like what to do for lunch. Offer an opinion instead of just going along with what anyone else says.
9. Learn How to Say No. We have a saying at our companies, “everything is my job.” But that doesn’t mean that saying “yes” to everything is a requirement. You have to be a steward of your time and the champion of your own responsibilities.
This is particularly true when other’s actions aren’t supportive of your time and needs. This is where step 4 can really help reign things in. Saying no to things that don’t serve you or the team, allows you to say yes to the things that do.
10. Help Others. When you establish boundaries, it allows you to really make a difference when it counts. Help your coworkers whenever you can. For example, if they’re rushed on a task, volunteer to help them finish it. They will remember this when it’s your turn to ask for help. Show someone how to do something. Teaching others can help them tremendously and is a surefire way to gain the respect of your peers. Plus, explaining things to others is an easy way to get used to speaking up.
Try these steps over the next 30 days and see how it changes the energy in your workplace. You’ll be glad you did.
Living Every Minute,
CEO, Dr. Tim International