How to be more assertive at the workplace without being rude

By Rekha Balakrishnan|28th Mar 2020
Being assertive is not about having your way; it is a type of behaviour that allows you to express your ideas, feelings and needs. Here are ways to be assertive at work without resorting to rudeness.
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We are all capable of behaving either aggressively, assertively, or passively depending on certain situations and feelings. But it is imperative to understand that we can choose and control our behaviour by following certain practices.


Most people have the tendency to exhibit one type of behaviour. Which means that you could choose to be assertive in most situations, yet experience being aggressive when you have to work a double shift, or even be passive when looking after a loved one who is sick.


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Aggression often does not stem from being over-confident; rather, it is actually a result of lack of confidence and even fear.


Passive people often reach a point where they do not know their views and feelings on a certain subject anymore. They also experience feelings of dissatisfaction as they are not taken seriously.


On the other hand, a majority of people who want to be assertive are scared to do so because they do not want people to feel that they are aggressive and they want to be nice or just keep the peace.


Assertiveness is a behavioural style that allows a person to express her feelings, ideas, and needs while respecting the rights and needs of others as well.


Do you want to be assertive? Here are some ways to do that:

Be an active listener

Communication should always be a two-way street. So, letting people know your boundaries and feelings is as important as allowing them to express their feelings, ideas, and needs. People who are successful at being assertive are good listeners. You may be able to listen well in some circumstances but it can be more difficult when the subject is more complex or controversial.

Demonstrate understanding

Everyone wants to be understood and you could demonstrate that by how you listen and by what you say. Tell others how you feel without anger getting the better out of you. If someone is agitated, notice their body language. Are they flailing or resorting to a slightly higher pitch in voice? To assuage their feelings, you could perhaps reply in a calm voice, “I know you are upset, and let’s talk about this.”

Say what you think and feel and what you really want to happen

Words can give clues about whether you are assertive or not. Being clear will also minimise the chances of being misunderstood. Always begin with an attractive or charming statement. You could do that by complimenting or thanking the other person or apologising or agreeing with the person to calm her. Remember to use word and statements that


  • Demonstrate that you understand
  • Say what you think and feel
  • Say specifically what you want to happen.

Work out a joint solution

A joint solution will please all parties without compromise and this is where the real understanding and negotiation actually begins. You should also consider the consequences of each choice on both yourself and the others. We also need to look at ourselves and make sure that we are presenting ourselves positively and clearly. We can do so by:

Drawing a clear line:

In order to become assertive person, you need to have clear boundaries that are set by you. The only difference between an assertive person and a passive person is that the former makes this line very clear and does not allow anyone to step over it.


Working on body language

People need to make sure that your body language and appearance are actually matching with the tone of voice. Professor Albert Mehrabian, a communications expert who has pioneered the understanding of communications since the 1960s discovered that the messages that people receive about other people consist of three ingredients according to the following percentage: appearance and body language – 55 percent, voice – 38 percent and words – 7 percent.


Practising

It is also all about practising. Recognise that it may be scary at first and that it probably won’t be perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Simply resolve to learn from each attempt how to do it better next time.


Becoming assertive may be one of the hardest things you have ever done but learning and mastering it is one of the most rewarding experiences in life.



(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

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