There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. When you are assertive, you allow your thoughts to be heard and respected by others. When you are aggressive, you cause others to shut off and tune out of the conversation. This is especially important when you are in a leadership position. You don’t want to come off as a boss who bullies. But neither do you want to let others step over your authority. It’s all about finding the right balance!
Let’s take a look at these scenarios. During a meeting, one of your colleagues gave a suggestion. You completely disagree with the suggestion. It is not well thought through and even shows the lack of understanding from your colleague. Do you:
A: Slam the table and criticise your colleague’s idea
B: Say that you don’t agree with the suggestion and provide the reasons why
C: Go along with the idea even though you don’t agree with it
If you picked A, you are being aggressive by threatening and putting down the ideas of others. For those who picked B, you are being assertive. For C, you are being passive by going with the flow. Now that you know your type, how do you go about being more assertive?
Watch Your Tone And Language
I’m sure we all have that colleague who always comes off as confrontational and rude. They may raise their voice when expressing their opinions and their words might seem accusatory. Don’t be like that colleague! If you’re feeling emotionally charged, give yourself some time to cool down and collect your thoughts before voicing them. Use ‘I’ statements like ‘I feel’ or ‘ I think’ rather than ‘You always’ or ‘You never’. The last thing you want is the person to shut off from the conversation. Use stronger verbs like ‘want’ and ‘will’ rather than ‘could’ or ‘should’ to voice your opinions and actions.
Mind Your Body Language
Have you ever realised that you’re more inclined to listen to someone who speaks confidently and maintains eye contact with you? Using the appropriate body language will show that you mean business. So stand tall and look at the person in the eye when you are communicating. Avoiding eye contact will make you seem non confrontational and lacking in confidence. Find the right balance for eye contact. You don’t want to be shooting daggers out of your eyes or caught staring at the person! Practice makes perfect!
Don’t Beat About The Bush
We are not mind readers! Be direct when communicating your thoughts and speak up for what you truly feel. Don’t expect or assume that others will be able to infer what you have said. Being assertive is all about getting your voice heard and respected. Keep it short and sweet. The longer you talk, the more others will tune out (our attention span is just that short). You have to capture their attention within the first one or two sentences in order for them to listen to what you have to say and act upon it.
Learn To Say No
How do we reject someone without sounding mean or feeling guilty? There are times when we would rather say no, but we say yes out of obligation or to please someone. But saying no doesn’t mean that you are being difficult! It just means that you prefer to tell the truth instead of sugar coating things. It also means that you are prioritising things that matter to you in life and ensuring that others do not cross your boundaries. So don’t feel bad for saying no to a certain task or voicing about how you truly feel about something. Offer alternatives or look for a win-win situation that would benefit both parties.
Keep An Open Mind
Being assertive does not mean bulldozing your way through others opinions and forcing your ideas on them. Just like how everyone has different tastes and preferences, everyone is entitled to their thoughts and opinions. This doesn’t mean that you are right and the other person is wrong. Even if you don’t agree with others, listen before you share your thoughts. Perhaps they might open your eyes to a fresh perspective or provide constructive feedback that will help you to improve.
Always remember, you don’t have to be the loudest in the room to be heard. It’s how you put across your opinions that matters. Let your thoughts be heard as you work on standing up for yourself and your opinions confidently.