Being Assertive in the Workplace

September 15, 2017 by  

  • How often have you heard the phrase, “It is a jungle out there!” These days, lifestyle coaches and corporate trainers are training professionals to become more assertive. “Stop being a pushover,” they say. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
    So how important is it to learn to be assertive at work?
  • Is this any different from being assertive outside of work, in your personal life, when for example you have trouble saying “no” to family or friends, partners, or salesmen?
  • What exactly does it mean to be assertive anyway? And does it mean the same irrespective of gender?
  • And, do class or culture count?
    These are important questions to consider for anyone who feels somewhat shy or intimidated, and feels that they are being held back by their inability to speak up.

To start with, what exactly does it mean to be assertive?
Assertiveness means knowing what you want and asking for it in an honest and respectful manner. It is being able to stand up for yourself and your ideas, for what you believe to be right and for what you know to be fair. It is not about simply getting your own way. It does not mean disrespecting others but rather respecting yourself. It means having the self-confidence to speak up when you have a point to make. It also means the ability to say “no” or “I don’t think so” when the situation demands it.
Assertiveness is not simply a behavioral change, something outward and superficial. It has to start from your inner conviction, from having good self-esteem. People who lack confidence or who let others walk all over them worry about the effect of their own words and actions on others. They feel a lack in themselves, be it confidence or self-worth. But as Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly put it, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Assertiveness should not be confused with aggression, as it is a positive trait. It comes with the right tone of voice, the right body language, and the right attitude.

Contextual Considerations
However, there are some important considerations, like gender and cultural context for anyone looking to make these changes in their personality and behavior. Cultural differences, in particular, should not be overlooked in our diverse and very global society. For instance, there is a much more vertical hierarchy in Asian business environments than in the western world. What may seem friendly and personal may come across as aggressive and “in your face.” The “cards on the table” attitude of one culture can puzzle or even offend another. Suit your tone of voice and non-verbal communication so you do not alienate others when you are meaning to connect. There is a fine line dividing assertive and aggressive behavior. It is easier to get your voice heard if you can build better professional and personal relationships based on trust, respect, and rapport rather than domination.

Ultimately, assertiveness is more about you as a person, whether in a personal or a professional capacity. If you can develop self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem, and self-worth, you will find it easier to look someone in the eye and calmly but firmly get your point across. The good news is, these personality traits can be learned, as long as you commit to changing how you deal with others and practice those strategies when the opportunity arises, you will get better at being assertive.

Comments

2 Responses to “Being Assertive in the Workplace”

  1. Asesh Datta on October 7th, 2017 6:34 pm

    Good post. We are always doing this balancing act between two sides of the coin. Even within work there are at least two facets. That is in simple word is Duality.
    Maintaining priority between personal and official work is our maturity, experience and skill.
    At the end, we are all having a work life to sustain our personal life. Not other way around.
    Regards.

  2. softskills on October 8th, 2017 3:30 am

    Hi Asesh, I am glad you enjoyed the post and I appreciate your comments as they are certainly true and relevant.

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