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What Does It Mean to Be Assertive?

Assertiveness gets a bad rap. Somewhere along the way, it has become associated with bossiness, pushiness, or (worse of all) aggression. But if we look at the actual definition, we quickly see that being assertive is a positive behaviour that plays a big role in nurturing and maintaining healthy relationships. 

Assertiveness is defined as a manner of communicating and a relational style used by individuals to express their needs confidently, openly, and in a positive manner. Acting assertively is an interpersonal skill that helps people to maintain healthy relationships, resolve interpersonal conflict, and prevent one’s needs from being stifled or repressed.

So, what does being assertive in the workplace mean? Some examples of assertiveness at work include: 
  • Asking someone to change their behaviour 
  • Confidently communicating your emotions, perspectives, and thoughts
  • Being clear about your expectations and what you need to be successful 
  • Saying “no” to work you are unable to take on
Assertive Communication

Why Being Assertive Matters

The ‘disease to please’, as Oprah Winfrey calls it, is common because most of us want to be helpful, collaborative and overall, a reliable team player. These are all great characteristics to have and are certainly celebrated in the workplace, but what happens when we struggle to clearly communicate (and defend) our needs at work? 

When we are sheepish about what we need to perform our work, we put ourselves at risk of experiencing:
  • Lower job satisfaction
  • Relationship satisfaction, and 
  • Overall lower self-esteem
It can also cause us to feel a build-up of resentment, anger and frustration. Why? Because our needs are not being met. 

Walking the Assertiveness Tight Rope 

Assertiveness is the ability to strike a balance between passive and aggressive communication styles [1]. We can think of it as a scale, with assertiveness being in the middle.

It’s rare that we are so extremely on one side or the other. More often than not, we are somewhere in between. Ideally, we should be striving to strike a balance between these two communication styles. When you are behaving assertively, you are able to:

  • Clearly and directly articulate your opinions, thoughts and emotions 
  • Actively listen and collaborate
  • Offer and talk through different approaches/other possible options
  • Consider the other person’s perspective
  • Lean into disagreements and discussions (while being confident that you will arrive at a mutually agreeable solution)

As we covered in the module Self Leadership: Building Confidence While Managing Nerves, Anxiety and Self-Doubt, we communicate with our bodies just as much as we communicate with our words. Assertive body language and vocal style include: 

  • Maintaining eye contact (avoid averting your gaze or staring elsewhere)
  • Strong, upright and open posture (no slouching, arm-crossing or fidgeting) 
  • Strong voice projection and clear voice 
A good first step is to assess yourself and see where you land on the assertiveness spectrum. Then, you can start considering the most appropriate strategies that will help you move towards a more balanced communication style. 

Taking It One Step At A Time

Remember, like any other skill, public speaking and communications (like being assertive!)  can be strengthened over time.

If you have a tendency to experience feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and self-doubt, try taking it step-by-step.

Interested in becoming a member or partnering with Speak for Success for your team?

👩🏻‍💻You can register today or book a call with one of our Learning Specialists to find out how we can support you or your team. 

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Overall, public speaking is a GREAT way to improve self-confidence by helping you overcome your fears, enhance your communication skills, and build self-esteem. With practice and dedication, you can improve your overall self-confidence. 

Plus with Speak for Success, it can also be fun, safe and supportive.

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