Not being assertive makes it easy for someone to be ignored, taken advantage of—even bullied. However, most people default to passive aggression instead of clear and concise communication.
Simply put, being passive-aggressive means we say yes when we want to say no. But this can snowball into indirect expression of hostility toward your coworkers. If you’re after a higher position, antagonizing your peers is the last thing you want to do.
When used properly, the right amount of assertiveness can positively impact your career. Key to learning this useful skill is finding the right balance between staying passive and going aggressive. It’s easier said than done, but mastering it can give you the respect you deserve.
Depending on individual factors, you might want to look up on courses from expert coaches for the absolute best results. But if you want to get started now, here are 5 important tips to help you become more assertive:
1. Be Aware of Your Body Language
Let’s begin with one of the hardest things to get right: body language. As the old cliché goes: actions speak louder than words. After all, communication isn’t purely verbal.
Your posture, facial expression, and hand gestures can help enhance your words and project confidence. Keep a straight posture, maintain a neutral facial expression, and avoid distracting hand movements. This and other nonverbal communication techniques can make you appear more reliable and confident.
2. Be Direct
Make your requests clear, short, and direct. At the same time, phrase them in such a way that makes them harder to refuse.
You can say, “Would you please come in earlier tomorrow?” instead of, “Do you mind coming in earlier tomorrow?” Aside from making you harder to rebuff, it also makes you sound less bossy.
3. Control Your Emotions
A key barrier to assertive communication is thinking that expressing anger is improper in the workplace. But feeling anger and frustration is perfectly normal. And sometimes, expressing displeasure at a coworker’s work can extract improved performance.
However, overtly hostile communication can get in the way of conflict resolution, therefore making negotiation harder. If you feel like your emotions may be getting the best of you, then it might be best to wait until you’re more calm and collected. You want to sound authoritative without appearing unreasonable or rude.
4. Speak in the First Person
Using “I” statements lets you own up to your thoughts and opinions. More importantly, it avoids sounding like you’re accusing the other person of wrongdoing.
For example, “I feel upset whenever you interrupt me” sounds less inflammatory than, “Your interruptions upset me.” The first statement gets your discomfort across without outright accusing the other party of wrongdoing. This lets you mend fences much easier, as well as encourage cooperation and compromise.
5. Learn to Say No
Saying what you mean can get even more challenging if you’re afraid of disappointing others. This can commonly manifest itself in a tendency to avoid refusing requests—regardless of whether you can fulfill them.
However, refusing a request is as simple as saying, “No, I can’t do that right now.” If needed, you can explain why—but keep it brief. Beating around the bush can make it sound like you’re making excuses. It’s better to be honest about your capabilities than to end up disappointing with subpar performance.
Some Final Words
For some people, the hardest part about learning assertiveness is overcoming a fear of being misunderstood. However, not speaking out and relying on passive aggression does more harm than good. Thankfully, the previous quick and easy tips can give you a head start and gain your colleagues’ respect.
Assertiveness takes practice, but the payoff is more than worth it. It can even get you ahead at work—and help you finally land that promotion you were gunning for.