5 Ways To Be More Assertive At Work

Have you ever admired a co-worker who’s able to navigate challenging situations with ease and professionalism, no matter the politics and difficult personalities involved? You know the type: She has a Teflon-like ability to deflect anger and frustration in the problem-solving process and doesn’t settle for an outcome that would sacrifice her self-respect or clout among colleagues.

What she’s exhibiting is a key personality attribute that’s important in both business and life: assertiveness. For those of us who avoid confrontation like the plague—or, on the flipside, those of us who have hair-trigger tempers—this calm-yet-effective, agreeable-yet-firm temperament seems superhuman. Assertiveness requires skill and can take time to cultivate, but it’s a quality you can (and should) aspire to master.

Put simply, being assertive is a happy medium between the two extremes of aggressive and passive. While aggressive people adopt the “my way or the highway” stance, coming off as hostile and abrasive, passive people can be pushovers, giving up their power and allowing themselves to be taken advantage of, creating a recipe for burnout and resentment.

Assertive people, on the other hand, tend to seek out and create win-win scenarios. Assertive people understand the value of making their desires and beliefs known, but their pride isn’t damaged if their solution isn’t the one that comes out on top. Confident and assured, these people approach situations with a healthy dose of objectivity, and as a result, are able to communicate clearly and work through challenges in a low-stress, no-drama, and self-honouring way.

Many people find it challenging to project assertiveness precisely because it requires you to walk a fine line between being pushy and pacifying. To help you navigate this tricky road, here are a few examples of how to be more assertive without turning into the office jerk.

  1. Remember that clear, confident, respectful and open communication maximises the effectiveness of teams who often operate within an environment that is busy, crowded and with competing priorities
  2. Assertive communicators are able to clearly and openly express their needs, wants, feelings and opinions in a manner which is respectful to themselves and others
  3. Assertive individuals are able to make requests without belittling, abusing or dominating other people
  4. Assertive behaviour falls within the centre of a spectrum ranging from passivity at one end to aggression at the other -remember to stay ‘somewhere in the middle’
  5. Assertiveness is a skill that can be developed and involves making changes to one’s thoughts and beliefs as well as behaviour Assertive individuals are self-assured, direct and sincere communicating their thoughts and feelings in a manner that is not disparaging to themselves or others and are willing to accept differing points of view.

My name is Rhonda Emonson, owner of Create Change Consultancy and am an experienced and tertiary trained Mediator, Coach & Counsellor.

I work with individuals and organisations who are seeking change; are wanting to clarify their values, highlight their strengths and learn about how to make changes to their current situation. I have a private practice in Albury NSW and conduct workshops on a regular basis on topics relating to creating change.  

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