Now if the title of this article puts you off immediately as thoughts like: ‘I don’t want to be too assertive’ enter your head, then this is exactly what you need in fact! So many women consider ‘assertiveness’ to mean ‘aggressiveness’ when the two things couldn’t be more different! ‘So what is the difference?’ You might ask yourself. Or indeed you might ask me.
Well in short, aggressive behaviour is about exerting pressure or bullying in order to get what you want. Assertiveness is about identifying what it is you need and then establishing boundaries or having the conversations to ensure that you communicate what it is that you need. One is about belittling others and one is about empowering yourself. So, here are five ways to be more assertive and self-empowering at work, without being an aggressive meany-boots.
See Your Worth
By positively critiquing what you do, celebrating accomplishments and spending a bit of private time basking in your own abilities, you will ensure that you continue to play to your strengths and not succumb to that negative inner critic who all too often hijacks any positive reflections and turns them into chastisement. Remember that unless you give yourself the credit you deserve then you cannot expect anyone else to.
Talk your talk
Know what you need and express that vocally. You and your points of view are no less important than anyone else in the room, irrelevant of your position. The more succinct you are, and the more you trust in your own worth, the easier this is. Practice makes perfect. Always. As a side note, do be careful not to pepper your conversations with apologies, justifications or too much explanation. Less is always more.
Walk your walk
It is all good and well to know your worth and talk your talk but unless you hold yourself strong you will undermine everything you do. I’m not talking about fixing yourself in some sort of warrior imitation here but I am talking about standing in your height (however tall or small that may be) and not shuffling from one foot to the other. Standing your ground means good eye contact, a strong voice and authenticity – which will of course be different for everyone. You have to know and value who you are to be able to stand up and own who you are.
Set your boundaries
If you need more time, say so. If you are starting to get irritated by something then you need to let people know in a fair and level way (remember that they cannot mind read you!) If you need someone to take responsibility, then you need to address the matter and get to the point. Setting boundaries is absolutely key when it comes to assertiveness in the workplace but unless we can identify honestly to ourselves where our own boundaries are being pushed then it is impossible to communicate boundaries to anybody else.
Stick to your guns
So you have now worked hard to identify and establish the four points above. Now you need to stick to your guns. The fact is, that people will try to push back, negotiate, get emotional and a whole range of other responses. You need to let them have the space to respond how they need to respond. And whatever that is, you need to stick to your guns. Far easier said than done. But with baby steps and a whole load of practice, assertiveness can become an everyday empowering habit!
Dannie-Lu Carr is Co-Founder of The Good Witches of the North, a transformational programme that focuses on harnessing the energy and abilities that each individual already has, enabling people to face their fears and step up to the next stage of their career and life with the personal confidence and authenticity needed for long-term happiness. To find out more or to book for one to one or group sessions, visit The Good Witches of the North website.