How to be Assertive in a Professional Environment



Adopting a passive disposition may seem like a good way to promote a peaceful atmosphere in the office. However, being a little too compliant and submissive can cause a lot of things to remain unsaid which, in turn, can lead to internal conflicts, feelings of resentment and victimization, and other similarly stressful situations. An employee’s reluctance to speak out can also be detrimental to the company’s progress. Without the critiques and suggestions of assertive employees, your management will have a hard time addressing everyday problems and improving internal processes and procedures.

If you have a naturally passive disposition, attempting to be assertive when dealing with your colleagues can be a bit awkward. Don’t worry; this is perfectly normal. In fact, there are assertiveness training courses that can help professionals like you to practice assertive verbal and non-verbal techniques in an everyday setting. Joining one these classes will prove to be helpful in making the transition less stressful.

Now, being assertive doesn’t mean that you always have to be on the verge of stepping on other peoples’ toes. Instead of fearing offending others, assertive people bear in mind that their rights are equal to that of the person they are conversing with. This mentality compels them to speak honestly and respectfully and to listen to what other people are trying to say.

Here are some types of assertive verbal approaches:

  1. Basic assertion

Stating your wants, needs, and preferences is basic assertion. These statements can begin with I want, I need, I would prefer, I’m interested, and many others. Even a simple yes or no statement is an example of basic assertion.

  1. Contextual assertiveness

Contextual assertiveness informs the person you are talking to of how their actions are affecting your situation in life. Statements that make use of contextual assertiveness typically have 2 parts: objectively stating what the other person is doing, and concrete details of the effect of those actions. Sometimes, these can be followed by I feel and I prefer statements.

  1. Emphatic assertiveness

Emphatic assertiveness highlights the speaker’s sensitivity and how much thought was given to consider the other person’s feelings. It is usually used by people in caring relationships.  The first part of an emphatic statement acknowledges the other person’s feelings and viewpoints while the second part is a basic assertion of your current situation, feelings, beliefs, or requests.

  1. Escalating assertiveness

Instead of a single statement, escalating assertiveness makes use of several separate statements, each expressed with increasing firmness. This is useful in circumstances where you feel like someone is insistently or repeatedly undermining your rights. Escalating assertiveness can start with a request and followed by a demand, progress from an emphatic assertion to a basic assertion, or from a preference to a refusal.

In addition to words, non-verbal communication also plays a big role in being assertive. A person with an assertive personality strives to maintain direct eye contact, an open body stance, and honest facial expressions, such as smiling when pleased and frowning when unhappy. These movements invite the person they are conversing with to speak their mind freely and honestly.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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