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iManage, Issue #009 -- Workplace Communication - 3 Steps to being more Assertive in the Workplace
April 01, 2010


3 Steps to being more Assertive in the Workplace

At work or at home, do you let others make the decisions? Do you avoid making yourself heard, preferring to let the situation pass in order to maintain peace and harmony?

In some cases, that may make sense. You get a feel good factor from putting the needs of others above your own. And we sometimes have to let egotistical bosses, elderly parents or hormonal teenagers have their way.

But if you are feeling a sense of powerlessness, and that you are "having to" rather than "choosing to" let others put their needs above yours, then it may be time to take stock and make some changes.

If you tend to behave passively, you are in danger of building up internal frustration and stress. You may find that you "blow up" over small things, to the surprise of those around you.

You may find that despite your best efforts to keep everyone happy, people in general may not treat you with respect or ask for your opinion. And that can be a severe drain on your self confidence. This leads to more passivity and you can end up on a downward spiral. If you want to change the scenario, you can. Its up to you.

Here are three steps to help you be less passive and more assertive both in and outside of work.

Step 1: Believe in Yourself

Remember that you are entitled to express your needs and wants without apologising to others. Stop that mind chatter that says "I can't do this, I am not good enough, they are smarter than me" etc. Imagine there is a sweeping brush inside your head and get rid of all that rubbish. Don't dwell on negative thoughts. Replace them with "I can, I will" (not "I'll try!"). Visualise explaining your needs and wants to others with confidence.

Step 2: Plan Ahead

The next time you face a situation where you want to behave more assertively, plan what you are going to say. Avoid using the "You" word, which can make people defensive. People don't "make you angry". You get angry all by yourself.

Follow this process:

a) describe the situation "When the report isn't done in time.."

b) describe how it makes you feel "I feel frustrated because.."

c) describe how you would like it to be "and what I would like is to be kept informed before the deadline is reached"

Stick to the facts and avoid blame.

Step 3: Practice Assertive Behaviour

We communicate through our body language and tone of voice more than the words we use. So aim for:

- good eye contact

- a smile and a friendly approach

- an open, positive stance

- a good, strong handshake

- a confident voice tone

- a smart appearance to help boost your confidence level

Practice being more assertive in a safe environment to begin with. Be conscious of situations with your friends and family. Adopt a more assertive approach in low key situations, such as getting help with the chores at home. This will build your confidence and skill and help you tackle more risky, important situations.

Download my Ways to Communicate Effectively Audio Guide for more in-depth advice on how to communicate in an assertive way.

Click on What is Communication to find out more on my website.

Ann Halloran

Practical management skills advice for business owners and managers. Get best practice tips on a wide range of topics such as time management, motivation, communication skills, presentation skills, performance appraisal and more.

Content based on 30 years management/consultancy experience gained in a wide range of business sectors. If you would like to find out more, feel free to Contact Me.

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