Legacy Bowes Blog
Asserting your assertiveness
How nurturing this nuanced skill can transform your working world
Being assertive is a valuable skill. Think of the magnanimous bounty hunter Han Solo in Star Wars or the magical Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series—both exude confidence, they say what they mean, they’re trusted allies, and they’re successful in achieving their life goals.
In the working world, being assertive is an equally valuable competence. Assertiveness does not mean being aggressive or domineering – it means expressing your thoughts, needs, and expectations in a confident, respectful, and constructive manner. It means being present and listening actively. It means believing in yourself and staying steady in the face of adversity.
None of this is easy, though, and does not always come naturally (like for Han or Hermione) … nurturing your assertiveness is an exercise in nuance. By mastering this skill, you will feel more comfortable with the choices you make and create a positive work environment that fosters effective communication and productivity.
Table of Contents
- Know what you are talking about
- Have confidence
- Using your assertiveness to persuade
- Know when you have (and do not have) the ability to affect and change
- Consistency is crucial
- Maintain open and transparent communication
- Acknowledge the efforts or contributions of others
- Provide regular praise for good performance
- Replace your negative self-talk with positive affirmations
- Be clear on your personal boundaries
- Clearly and specifically articulate your thoughts, requests, or concerns
- Show respect for others’ viewpoints by actively listening when they speak
- Acknowledge and accept that conflicts are a part of any workplace
- Keep your own emotions in check
- Advocate for your career goals, professional development, and needs
Here are some strategies you can employ to help you be more assertive at work:
Before a meeting or gathering of colleagues, do your research and plan out any points you wish to make. To really hit it out of the park, consider potential answers to questions, as well as possible objections, and be ready with a measured response.
Confidence is key to assertiveness. Believe in your abilities and trust your decisions. Maintain good posture, make eye contact, be still, and speak with a steady tone to convey confidence in your communication.
If you are a naturally high frequency or movement-oriented person, consider the use of techniques like rubbing a paperclip between your thumb and forefinger to eliminate larger fidgeting impulses and help you slow down when you talk.
If you are using your assertiveness to persuade someone, it is always a good idea to appeal to what is significant or rewarding to them if you want them to do what you ask. If your goal is to bring your iguana into the office, talk about how much faster you can type when Iggy is on your shoulder. Most often, your supervisor needs to take your request up the chain of command, so provide them with some great bullet points to help them help you.
Realities will always be present, so knocking your head against them will not change or alter the circumstance. Focus instead on accommodations to make your own workday more productive – or if you are a manager, ask for a level of performance from your team you know they can achieve.
If you are a manager, lay the groundwork so everyone on your team has clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations. When everyone knows what's expected of them, it's easier to address issues when they arise. Then, apply the same standards and expectations to all co-workers, treating everyone fairly and equally.
You can help encourage colleagues to share their thoughts and concerns when you uphold open and transparent communication with your team. Selecting an appropriate time and location for discussions or meetings can help you feel more comfortable when expressing your thoughts and they allow your co-workers to focus on what you are saying.
When making requests or addressing concerns, express appreciation for their work or willingness to listen and thank them for their time. Actively seek feedback from your team on your communication style. Use their input to continually improve your assertiveness and leadership skills.
You can also do this with co-workers who always appreciate it when someone notices their good work. Make them blush!
Many sprouts of assertiveness get ground down by one’s own internal monologue. Repeating positive affirmations to yourself will feel goofy at first, but like anything, the more you practice the easier it becomes, and the more you believe. Part of learning to be assertive is to believe your presence and your ideas have merit.
When you are in a tough situation and there is no choice but to decline a work assignment, establish and hold your boundaries, values, and/or workload limits. Politely decline additional tasks only when you genuinely cannot take them on without jeopardizing your performance or if it is against your values. Saying ‘no’ when necessary is a vital part of assertiveness.
Avoid vague language that can lead to misunderstandings. State exactly what you would like to happen. Do not overinflate in the hopes of entering into bartering – it will be seen as a strength if you hold your ground and have logical reasons for staying firm.
Keep in mind that it is important to show respect while staying firm. Summarize their key points to ensure you understand correctly. Always be on the lookout for win-win opportunities that make everyone look good (and feel good!). Show empathy and understanding by acknowledging others’ perspectives.
As a manager, address them promptly and use that assertive communication you have been practicing to express your own concerns while seeking resolutions to benefit everyone.
Take a deep breath before responding to difficult situations and deal with disagreements professionally. Encourage co-workers to engage in open, respectful discussions. When presenting a problem, also propose potential solutions or alternatives. This proactive approach demonstrates your commitment to finding resolutions.
Especially during challenging conversations. Assertiveness should never tip over into aggression. There is a saying that you should never eat something your grandmother would not recognize as food … similarly, you should never say something at work in a tone of voice you would not use with your nana.
Discuss opportunities for growth with your supervisor and seek support when needed. Consider attending assertiveness training or leadership development programs to further enhance your skills and confidence as a manager.
Being assertive at work is a valuable skill to learn that will transform your professional relationships, help you achieve your goals, and contribute to a positive work environment.
By practicing these strategies, you can channel your own inner Han or Hermione — asserting yourself effectively with professionalism, earning your colleagues’ trust, and creating a positive environment that fosters effective communication, teamwork, and mutual respect.
Legacy Bowes offers a variety of leadership and development training that can help you reach your potential. One such program is our Personal Leadership Effectiveness (PLE) program, which explores how one's personal leadership effectiveness has a direct impact on performance and productivity in their personal and professional life. Individuals who complete the PLE program will gain valuable insights and knowledge regarding the importance of their attitudes, beliefs, and commitments, and learn how to define personal success.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you assert your assertiveness in the workplace.