How to be more assertive at work and in life

By: Updated: July 19, 2019

Being assertive and being agreeable are two sides in a constant tug of war. Finding the balance can be difficult in today’s world. We have more convenience than any generation before us. This phenomenon is further magnified by social media, leading to shorter attention spans and immediate gratification-seeking behaviors. As a result, it’s no surprise that people are becoming more agreeable to reduce short term conflict and prolong a state of “happiness”. Is this always the best solution? Let’s find out:

Behind every decision, you must make a choice: to be agreeable or be assertive

Sometimes you might not agree with what the other party is saying, but it is not of utmost importance to your values – let’s call these the small decisions. It may be better to let these things go. Therefore, you must “choose your battles”. If you are in a constant state of “getting your way”, it is hard to build relationships. However, the same can be said about meekness. Staying passive for many small decisions can be detrimental to your health. When you take a passive approach, you are lying to yourself. Humans are adaptive creatures and continual passiveness in the face of small decisions may become trained behavior. Eventually, it could impact your ability to speak up during times of importance. Therefore, convenience can be a dangerous thing. If something is convenient, then people are willing to let it go.

It goes back to balance

Many societal factors like social media are impacting people to lean towards agreeableness and short-term benefit. However, medium to long term benefit is arguably better for personal growth and helps in building strong, trusting relationships. How can you trust someone who won’t even voice their true opinion? Unfortunately, many people mistake an assertive approach as an aggressive or passive-aggressive approach. They are not one and the same.

An assertive approach is not easy. It requires patience from all involved parties. Assertive approaches are well thought out but articulate and to the point. They are truthful and honest. There’s an important quote that comes to mind “a person’s worth is determined by how much truth they can handle”. Being assertive means telling the truth, in a polite and professional manner.

How can telling the truth affect everyday life?

In the short term, not voicing your opinion (or even lying) provides convenience as it typically involves telling people what they want to hear. But one small white lie eventually builds up into an attitude and leads to the long-term detriment of your own behavior and your relationships.

After all, great relationships are built on trust and a willingness to face the truth.  

Do not look at arguments as conflicts. Instead, see it as a form of negotiation

Negotiate with other parties as a human interacting with another human. Do not let your ego get involved. Look at an exchange as a way for both parties to come out better instead of a way to gain power over a person. The most difficult part of an assertive approach is not letting your emotions get to you. Once you become emotionally involved, it is much harder to see things from both perspectives.

What is a negotiation?

A negotiation is a willingness to say no. To have the ability to say no, you must have alternatives.

8 Tips - How to be more assertive at work and in life:

Assertive people aim for win-win situations, not win-lose or lose-win situations. Assertiveness requires patience, a clear mind, empathy, and an understanding of your own self-worth.

1. Think ahead

To be assertive, you should know your aim. Do not negotiate without alternatives. You cannot say "no" if you have no alternative. 

2. Speak truthfully

When you honestly express your feelings, the words will flow naturally. The best assertive practice is to speak based on the truth.

3. Know your self-worth

As stated above, a person can only be assertive in a negotiation if they know their own self worth. If you have no self worth, then how can you expect to negotiate. You must have options.

4. Think of the long term benefits

Conflict is sometimes necessary in certain situations. Passive behavior in the short term can lead to stress and anxiety in the long run. 

5. Be articulate and well crafted

Communication barriers are the easiest way to ruin a valid discussion. Make an honest and intentional effort to understand your peer. Craft your words to be simple and easy to come across.

6. Remain calm and collected

In a discussion, it can be difficult to separate your own best interests and emotional attitude from what is on the line. Remember to talk as one human interacting with another human.

7. Be professional

It is easy to aim at a target or resort to an insult. Always be professional and treat the other party with the same courtesy you deserve. Finding a happy medium between submissiveness and aggressiveness is the key.

8. Recognize you are not responsible for how others think or feel

At the end of the day, you cannot win in every situation. There are just some people you won't get along with... and that's fine. The world would be a terribly boring place if everyone had the exact same thinking. 


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