Most of us know what confidence means. But what about assertiveness? A random dictionary search for the word ‘assertive’ gives synonyms like ‘commanding’, ‘bullish’, ‘dominant’ and ‘forceful’. Is assertiveness really a negative trait as shown by these synonym choices? Not really. The idiom “putting one’s foot down” comes closest to explaining what being assertive means. It means telling someone in a strong way that they must or must not do something. It is basically a middle ground between being passive and being aggressive.
Being assertive is something that most of us learn gradually through our interaction with people over the years. The best salesmen show incredible levels of assertiveness while closing a deal. The same goes for an entrepreneur who has to face issues from unexpected quarters and deal with people who may not always be patient and gentle.
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Let us look at how entrepreneurs can learn to put their foot down to achieve success in this cut-throat world.
Do not be aggressive
There is only a fine line between being aggressive and being assertive. It is easy to lose one’s cool and act immature in trying situations. It takes a lot more effort to keep your calm and walk away. There are times when raising our voices seems like the most normal thing to do. However, only if you control your temper and address the other person with respect and dignity will things work your way. The best way to deal with anger is to just take a moment and sit down. When was the last time you saw someone who is sitting losing it?
Ditch the coyness
As an entrepreneur, being submissive and eager to please will never get you anywhere. Not even for a startup event that happens right across the street. Assertiveness means that you are not afraid to speak up. It is all right to be shy. But it is not all right to let yourself remain that way. Consider the age-old advice of standing in front of a mirror and practising your speech or sales pitch. When at parties, introduce yourself to people whom you would normally shy away from approaching. Learn to make small talk.
Being insensitive to the other person’s point of view or opinion is not the right way to describe assertiveness. If someone has opinions that are completely different from yours, it should not make you upset or irritated. Differences in opinion do not mean you are right and the other person is wrong or vice versa.
Be simple and direct when you talk
The hallmark of being assertive is being direct. Be clear while expressing what exactly you want. Never accuse or make the other person feel guilty when you are trying to put your point across.
Have you ever observed Robert Downey Jr. during interviews? There is a sense of calm even if he is being rubbed the wrong way by the interviewer. He looks intensely into the eyes of the interviewer and replies in a matter-of-fact way, restraining himself from showing any anger. Now, how’s that for calmness?
Do not be a doormat
You need to set boundaries that help you decide what you will permit and what you won’t. You don’t want to come across as a bully, nor do you want people to walk all over you. Setting boundaries for yourself will empower you to know what you should say yes to and when you should say no.
Like all skills, assertiveness is a skill that needs to be learnt right. It might take time to perfect the art, but it will work wonders in your personal and professional life. Watch videos of confident leaders rocking it and mirror them in words and body language. Before you even know, you will well be on your way to becoming an assertive leader.
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