Ways You Can Be More Assertive At Work

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certified

Speaking up in group settings or standing by your opinion when questioned is not easy for many people. Some feel content with the status quo or don't want to “rock the boat”. But, it serves to your advantage to adopt a more assertive personality in the workplace.

Your career may not take the path you would like it to if you are not able to articulate what you want or the value you add. Others may not look to you as an expert or as highly competent if you don't assert your opinions regularly.

If you feel you struggle with assertiveness in the office, adopt a few techniques that will help you boost your confidence in being a little bolder.

Change Your Body Language

Our body language says a lot more than we often realize. How and where we positions ourselves sends signals to those around us. When you are sitting in a meeting with team members or your boss, sit up straight and resist the urge to slouch, put your elbows on the table or rest you chin in your hands. Allow your body language to show that you are engaged in the conversation and ready to jump in at any time.

Body language isn't always how we sit or stand but where. When you enter a meeting, avoid sitting in the back or away from the person leading the discussion. Position yourself where others can see you and where you can more easily engage in the conversation if necessary.

Fine-Tune Your Vocabulary

It's important to critique how we speak in the office. When possible, pay attention to the words you use and especially to the “filler” words like “um” or “uh”. Interrupting your speech with too many “ums” or “ya knows” can seriously do damage to your credibility as an expert.

Many people subconsciously start using these words when they are nervous or caught off guard. If you have a presentation, practice saying what you will be contributing to avoid the fillers. If you are in called on in a meeting, give yourself a few seconds to get your thoughts together before you start to speak.

Remove words from your vocabulary that accept blame or have you apologizing for doing your job. Remove “I'm sorry” in any situation unless it's actually appropriate.

Bumping into someone as you run out of the kitchen and spilling their coffee warrants an “I'm sorry”. Following up with your boss for the fourth time this week about something you need for an upcoming deadline does not. Stop apologizing for doing your job.

Put Your Thoughts To Paper

Whether you get a little nervous speaking in front of your colleagues or allow others to persuade you their ideas are better, adopting the practice of putting your thoughts down on paper may help you become more assertive at work.

By writing down what you want to contribute in a meeting, you will be less likely to forget to speak up or allow your fears to prevent you from adding your opinions. Creating a script will not only allow you to feel more comfortable about what you are about to say, but will show others you come to meetings prepared with ideas, opinions and recommendations.

Getting into the practice of writing down your thoughts, opinions and arguments is a useful tactic when you are in the position of advocating for your own career growth. In order to get ahead, we may find ourselves asking to sit down with the boss or CEO and explaining why we deserve a promotion or raise.

These can be awkward conversations for many if they have trouble being assertive. Drafting a supportive argument on paper will better allow you to have these conversations.

Practice Being Assertive Outside the Office

Realizing that assertiveness does not come naturally to everyone, it is important to adopt some of these practices outside the office as well so they become more natural.

Learn to speak up around your family and friends when you disagree with their opinions or if they are pushing you to do something you don't want to do. If you are eating out at a restaurant and your food comes out wrong, let the waiter know.

Realize that you have the power to asset your wants and needs without being impolite or difficult. You have a right to a correctly cooked steak you are paying for as much as the next person.

Don't allow others to take advantage of your kindness or agreeable personality. If someone cuts in front of you in the grocery line, inform them. If you were overcharged for an item on sale, bring it to the cashier's attention. Altering little behaviors like this may eventually translate into feeling more comfortable asserting yourself.

Being assertive doesn't necessarily mean you're being aggressive.

For many, it's difficult not to associate one with the other. But by making small changes to your body language, vocabulary and daily practices, you can feel more comfortable adopting an assertive personality in the workplace.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz is a PHR certified HR professional with a broad range of expertise including recruitment, performance management, employee relations and talent management. She leverages her years of experience in HR to bring functional change to organizational leadership and direction to management structures and employees. Robin aims to empower the employees and managers she works with by providing coaching and counseling services.

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