Assertive communication isn’t just about being authoritative, it’s understanding how others are feeling and creating a win-win outcome. It’s about being able to express yourself without feeling self-conscious. To communicate assertively, in your work or personal life, it's important to understand the difference between passive and assertive behaviour, the difference between aggressive and assertive and to strike that balance.
Let's start by thinking about the areas in which you’d like to be more assertive. How do you behave in these situations and how is it different to your normal behaviour? Think about your verbal and non-verbal communication: if what you’re saying doesn’t match how you’re saying it, your message will be lost. Perhaps your body language becomes defensive when you are challenged? Or your tone of voice wavers slightly when speaking with senior managers? If you’re not sure, you could ask someone you trust for feedback - it can be uncomfortable to receive this information but it’s the first step in making a change.
Now you’ve got an understanding of the situations to prepare for and the areas you need to work on. Here are 5 tips to help you communicate more assertively:
- Take your time. This is a game changer. When challenged, it’s better to pause and take a breath rather then rush into a response, possibly fuelled by emotion. Breathing will focus your thinking and help with a confident posture. A deep breath is also crucial for a 'wobble-free' voice! Don’t be afraid to pause.
- Really listen, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. Don’t interrupt when someone else is speaking. Try to lose any preconceptions and see the situation from the other person's perspective.
- Get comfortable with saying no. We so often put others priorities above our own. But if agreeing to something isn’t the right thing to do then don’t say yes against your will. Value your time and don’t waste it to please other people.
- Start small: try practicing assertiveness in everyday life and build up to those important situations. If you’re not happy with the service you’ve received in a restaurant then voice that feedback in a friendly, assertive manner. Taking these opportunities to practice will mean it’ll be easier to give feedback when it really matters to you.
- Win-Win. You should strive for a win-win and a positive outcome for everyone involved. Seeking to prove someone wrong will only damage your relationship and eventually your reputation. Remember you can’t always change someone's thinking, sometimes it's better to agree to disagree.
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