Assertiveness is more than a fashionable term in the world of work and, especially, among managers and leaders. For many experts, it is a key quality that can help determine the success of a professional. If you don’t feel you’re a particularly assertive person, you can always work on it as you would any other skills. Being more assertive can apply to a host of everyday situations with friends and family, or co-workers and colleagues. That’s why we’ve put together a guide with some top tips and techniques to help you be more assertive.
What is assertiveness?
The dictionary definition of an assertive person is one who “expresses their opinion in a firm way”. However, psychologists and leadership experts think it’s more specific than that; it’s more about being able to express an opinion firmly but with sensitivity and awareness of their content and tone in doing so.
Some experts consider assertiveness to be the middle ground between passivity and aggression. Those who tend to behave passively do so because they might be afraid to show their emotions, or worry about the consequences of doing so. Being comfortable expressing your opinion is a good start but you should avoid doing so in an irrational or harmful way, as this can lead to aggression.
How to make assertiveness work for you
Although there are people who may already appear to have a sense of assertiveness, the truth is it’s not a natural gift, and the skill can be worked on. You could even consider speaking to a coach, specialists or psychologists. To start you off, here are some short techniques that can be put into practice:
- Reaffirm your position
You can recite internally the so-called “assertive rights” that enable you to stand firm in a situation.
Trying saying phrases like; “I have the right to say no”, “I have the right to aspire to something better”, “I have the right to request a fairer treatment”.
Find one that’s applicable to your current situation and simply recite it in your own mind.
- Clearly argue each position following a simple structure
- Briefly but clearly state the facts
- Respectfully request that your need is fulfilled, ensuring that it’s realistic for the situation
- Clarify the related consequences of your need being fulfilled, and equally what it will be if it’s not
- Try to read the other person’s tone
- Being able to detect when the other person may be getting aggressive, so that you don’t do the same thing and can therefore resolve the situation more clearly and quickly.
Being assertive at university
At university, teamwork will be a fundamental pillar of your studies.
And you may find yourself in unwanted situations such as having a team member not performing up to expectations, or being aware that other team members are making up the work for them.
- In this case, you have to find a middle ground between the two extremes of passivity and aggression.
Being passive and saying nothing, means the situation won’t change. This is not only unfair, but counterproductive to a good group dynamic in the long term.
- If you let the situation build up, and ultimately explode at the other person and become aggressive, it could cause the breakdown of relations among the team.
On the other hand, a rational presentation of the situation, asking the group’s thoughts and feelings, and establishing the wishes and consequences will be a more assertive way of dealing with the problem.
Common traits of assertive people
Do you want to know how to be more assertive? These are some common character traits that an assertive person might show:
- Firmness, but not out of self-pride or stubbornness, but of conviction in what is being done is the right thing.
- Empathy, as putting yourself in the other person’s shoes helps to unravel many situations, since they can often be the consequence of ignorance or a simple misunderstanding.
- A sense of humility, being aggressive is closely related to pride and arrogance, while humility is more closely related to assertiveness.
- Respect for others, while showing active listening and shared dialogue.
- The courage and self-confidence to express emotions. In the article “Achieving self-confidence” we show some tips to achieve it.