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April 12, 2018

Your Top Tips for Being More Assertive

Keith Jackson


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"Ah, Keith, quick word. Late notice, I know, but I need that [insert complicated, dreary task here!] done before the weekend, not by the end of next week. Sorry."

Terminator-style, my mind processes a series of responses:

  1. "******* typical! As if I haven't got enough on my ****** plate! I'll just reschedule my entire week because you don't know your *** from your elbow, you utter *******!"
  2. "OK, but you said the same thing yesterday about our other big review, so you can kiss that one goodbye for a start."
  3. "It'll be tight, but yeah, I reckon I can manage that."

Then, my brain factors in the importance of paying the mortgage and feeding my daughter, the cost of the recently booked summer vacation and said daughter's school trip, and the dismal state of the local job market.

Through the rage that courses through every blood vessel, I hear myself cheerily respond with Option 3…

…And breathe!

But what if there was another way? A path that could keep the boss happy and not derail my own schedule. How can you assert yourself without jeopardizing your workplace relationships?

These are questions that we have thought about at Mind Tools, and you can learn our top tips for dealing with this issue with our articles, How to Be Assertive and "Yes" to the Person, "No" to the Task.

But we wanted to know about the strategies that you have employed in your bids to be more assertive, and whether or not they were successful. And would you recommend them to other people?

So, we asked our friends and readers on social media, "What are your top tips for being more assertive?"

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

Uppermost in many people's thoughts were the importance of staying calm, avoiding conflict, and not letting emotion cloud the issue.

Facebook friend Debbie Mitchell, a business consultant from Bisley, U.K., said, "Think about your goal. What do you want to achieve from the conversation?

"Stay focused on the issue you want to talk about. Don't go off on a tangent and bring up new issues or cover old ground. Plan your rational statements, not emotional ones.

"Be open to hearing counter-arguments, and consider them rationally. Be patient, be fair, be reasonable. When you think emotion might bubble over, step away and come back to it later."

Procurement specialist Ahmed Raafat, from Cairo, Egypt, added three points. He said, "First, agree to disagree. Having a different point of view doesn't mean "I'm right and other person is wrong."

"Next, take a problem-solving approach to conflict. And, third, be patient."

Tracy Price, writing from California, said, "Be first in, and last to leave, any meeting with anyone of seniority. Listen carefully and take notes. When questions are asked, speak up clearly and with purpose. Dress for success."

Assertiveness is also a question of understanding and displaying Emotional Intelligence, according to management consultant Christos Nicolaou, from Larnaka, Cyprus. He said, "Develop your EQ, particularly the technical side, so that you act instead of react. You can then adjust your assertiveness according to the the case."

Joseph Truttman suggested simply, "Krav Maga or MMA training." I'll be generous, and assume that he meant that such skills can contribute to self-confidence, rather than recommending that you separate your boss's joints if he asks you to work a bit of overtime!

Twitter follower Vijay Mahajan had five brief tips for being more assertive. He said, "1. Value your time. 2. Listen and maintain eye contact. 3. Have a strong sense of self-belief. 4. Use emotional intelligence. 5. Body Language and Speaking."

Assertiveness and Reality

On LinkedIn, corporate trainer James Choles said, "The reality is that most people simply aren’t able to say 'No' to their bosses, especially in cultures where the power distance is high. My tip, then, would be to learn ways to refuse or push back without actually saying 'No.’"

LinkedIn proved to be good source of tips. Here is a selection of the highlights:

  • "Consistency in creating and meeting small goals helps one to feel more confident and then more assertive" – Jenny Nation.
  • "Not being afraid to be real and honest" – Mary Holmes.
  • "Always think from different perspectives, not just from yours, for reaching a win-win situation" – Tamas Fitos.
  • "A simple one my granddad taught me: say no!" – Martin Hipwell

As always, we're extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to write in with their top tips. And, if you have any other suggestions for being more assertive, let us know in the box, below!

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2 comments on “Your Top Tips for Being More Assertive”

  1. Another tactic can be to offer a "trade" when bosses give you unrealistic demands e.g. OK you want me to complete this task by Friday. I can, but if I do then I won't be able to do *****. Which is most important to you for me to finish on time?

    1. Great strategy! Negotiate with your boss about priorities and let them decide what is more important. I learned that years ago and it has served me well!

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