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Communication and People Management

Updated on December 2, 2014

How to feel comfortably Assertive

It would be great to be able to say what you think without upsetting other people or feeling guilty! By taking steps to become more Assertive that goal is certainly possible.

Whatever we do in life will affect other people and our emotional intelligence can play a big part in how successful we are. We all have experiences when things don’t go the way that we want: either we upset people because of being too brusque, angry or aggressive in other ways; or we don’t feel able to express our own wishes and end up feeling inadequate, shaping up to be a doormat.

Let’s look at Aggressive behaviour. Most easily distinguished in people who are threatening, misuse their power, manipulate others to do things that they don’t want to. There is also the more insidious aggression where the manipulation is deceptively passive being compliant on the surface but in reality behaviours are that of a saboteur, obstructive, in extreme cases even taking pleasure when others to do badly. Unhelpful in the workplace and in general life they can be rumour mongers and viral in their negativity. Both these types of behaviour can be seen as bullying.


So let’s change habits. By being assertive you will handle work frustration better.

In situations of frustration, maybe a rejected report or a presentation where you bombed, reflect upon it in a detached manner for learning experience and then LET IT GO. How realistic were your expectations, what will you do better next time? Remember that there will be other opportunities where you will be better prepared to take advantage with your new skills: it may help to think of this occasion as a dress rehearsal.

Be Assertive

Being assertive sets you free to be who you truly are and get what you truly want whilst remaining respectful to these needs and wishes in others. Understand the context and assess your behaviour to make appropriate adjustments. Context, what does that mean? For example, consider whether the organisation’s culture is one where vigorous debate seems to be valued, a quiet voice might not be heard. Or perhaps a quieter, sustained approach is more effective in a different culture.

Prior to any meeting, consider “what do I want from this situation?” Then afterwards consider if you achieved it. Think about adjusting your style for the next time if it was lacking: think about what you will say and how you will say it. Challenge yourself: at every meeting make sure that you speak up early into the meeting to remind others and yourself that you are actually there. If it doesn’t happen this time, don’t dwell on it and pledge to do so at the next one. Consider your impact on others to make sure that your approach does not bully or pester others.

So your checklist:

  • Assess your degree of assertiveness: check this with trusted colleagues
  • Set realistic goals and small changes in behaviour, build on them
  • Foster relationships with colleagues so that you will be more comfortable when speaking up
  • Be sensitive to how you will behave in a particular setting
  • Be true to who you are and what you want
  • Balance your needs and wants with those of others

Non-Assertiveness can result in avoidance of a situation where you think you may be under pressure and instead of handling it, you feel intimidated

Consider some mental tricks to bolster your demeanour (and remember practice makes perfect).

  • Imagine yourself after a successful meeting: how will you look, how will you feel? Hold that in your mind and believe it.
  • Be aware of your posture: shoulders back, good eye contact and confident walk
  • Whether standing or sitting, plant your feet firmly on the floor and feel the earth supporting you
  • Of course you will do your homework before the meeting so that you have information to hand and can offer valid opinion and information
  • Practice asking yourself difficult questions and observe how you would answer, this helps you to take control of your nervousness
  • Be aware of any emotional triggers that cause you stress or anger and think about how you will react next time you get them

Good Luck and think of this as a journey rather than a destination

© 2014 Christine de Caux


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