A Guide on How To Be More Assertive at Work (With Tips)

Updated March 20, 2023

When trying to level up at work, being more assertive can be a distinct advantage. Being assertive requires individuals to acknowledge their own emotions and reactions to complex situations. By being more assertive, you can improve professional relationships and improve your overall wellbeing. In this article, we discuss how to be more assertive at work, along with several tips to ensure successful communication.

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How to be more assertive at work

How assertive you are depends on several factors throughout your life, including upbringing and experiences. Becoming more assertive is a multi-step process. Here is a guide to help you become more assertive:

1. Consider those around you

If you want to be more assertive, you may find it beneficial to consider both your values and the values of those around you. Being assertive requires you to understand your value to your team and organization. You may also want to congratulate your colleagues on their success and discuss their accomplishments. Assertive employees show this recognition because they know that the success of others also ensures their own success. Complimenting colleagues demonstrates self-confidence and your subsequent assertiveness. You may find it beneficial to research your rights and how your company's values align with your own.

2. Demonstrate confidence

Assertive individuals understand that their needs require fulfillment to work efficiently. To demonstrate assertiveness, express your needs immediately. When you wait to discuss your needs, this shows passiveness and prevents the resolution of issues. Show initiative by identifying your needs and goals to supervisors and setting goals to ensure their accomplishment. You can inform your supervisor or employer of which changes you want them to implement to ensure you can accomplish your goals. You may find it beneficial to ask your supervisor if you can revisit your goals after a fixed amount of time.

Related: What Conflict Resolution Skills Are Important for Workplace Success?

3. Understand you lack control over other people's behaviour

When practising assertiveness, it's useful to observe others' behaviour and remind yourself that you have no control over that behaviour. Some individuals may react negatively when you're assertive. If this occurs, it's beneficial to remember that their reactions don't involve your assertiveness. You may want to avoid reacting to them in the same way. You have control over your own behaviour, so you may want to remain calm during difficult conversations. Remaining respectful toward others' needs increases your chances of having successful conversations.

4. Remain positive

Try to remain positive when expressing yourself to others because it promotes healthy conversations. Remaining positive also increases your chances of respecting the rights of others and ensures you control your emotions more easily. It's easier to maintain professional friendships this way and is a valuable reminder for you to consider your own rights.

5. Remain open to criticism

Assertive individuals encourage others to provide them with feedback because this allows them to develop their skills and improve their work. When practising assertiveness, consider asking those around you for both positive and negative feedback. This criticism doesn't impact your confidence in your skills or your ability to submit high-quality work.

Related: Personal Skills and Professional Skills You Should Have on Your Resume

6. Practise saying "no"

Assertive individuals refuse tasks they don't want to do. If you're communicating with supervisors and want to refuse tasks or overtime hours, this can be a difficult conversation. Refusing work requires you to know your own limits and understand when you can complete more work. By refusing tasks when you feel overwhelmed or lack the motivation to complete extra work, you ensure that you complete all tasks effectively and efficiently.

If you experience difficulty refusing tasks, remember that you can't please all individuals. Refusing this work provides other employees with the opportunity to show their skills and prevents you from feeling overworked.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the balance between aggression and passiveness. Assertiveness requires you to be honest about your needs while considering the rights of those around you. Assertive individuals demonstrate both empathy and the need to set boundaries. In contrast, aggression primarily involves self-interest while disregarding the rights of others. Passive individuals prioritize the needs of others while disregarding their own needs. Here are some benefits associated with assertiveness:

  • Increased management: Assertiveness improves your management skills by ensuring employees both complete tasks and treat each other with respect.

  • Improved negotiation: By demonstrating assertiveness, you can create situations that benefit all parties involved.

  • Improved company culture: Those who practice assertiveness improve company culture by ensuring all employees feel respected and by ensuring boundaries are clear.

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How to use assertive communication techniques

Assertive communication techniques allow you to demonstrate your assertiveness when communicating with others. Here is a guide to help you develop your communication techniques:

1. Use "I" statements

You may want to consider using "I" statements when communicating with others. This demonstrates assertiveness because you acknowledge your emotions and responsibilities. By using "I" statements, you prevent the other person from feeling blame and instead take all responsibility for the situation.

Example: "I believe we need a third party to help solve this disagreement."

2. Demonstrate empathy

When communicating with others, consider whether you show empathy and how you can promote empathy in daily conversations. Consider how the people you communicate with feel about particular conversations and how you can consider their needs.

Example: "I know you're experiencing difficulty working with your colleague, and that this can cause discomfort in your daily work life. This project does need to be complete by this Friday, but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable when working within your team. I found someone who is willing to switch roles with you for the remainder of the week. Does this interest you?"

Related: What Is Interpersonal Communication and How Can You Use It in the Workplace

3. Understand escalation

When practising assertive communication, consider when to escalate conversations and when to de-escalate them. If you notice coworkers or colleagues becoming aggressive or upset about the conversation, this may be an indication that your assertiveness appears aggressive to them. In this situation, use your de-escalation skills to reduce conflict and promote healthy professional relationships.

If you notice others lack receptiveness when communicating with you, escalate your assertive communication. This requires you to address the situation while remaining polite. If you're a supervisor or a member of upper management, you might be firmer with the person.

Example: "This is the second time I've had to discuss punctuality. If you're late for work again, I'll begin disciplinary procedures."

Related: 8 Steps for Conflict Resolution at Work

4. Take time

When demonstrating assertive communication, you might ask your supervisor for more time. This promotes authenticity and ensures you make thoughtful decisions about your career. If your supervisor asks for you to complete additional overtime, ask your supervisor for time to decide whether overtime is best for you.

Example: "I appreciate you coming to me with this overtime request. Can you give me a few hours to check my schedule before I confirm?"

5. Use action verbs

When communicating with others, you may find it beneficial to use action verbs. This improves your overall communication skills and ensures you communicate clearly with your colleagues. Use verbs that describe your intent to perform an action or task.

Example: "I will be attending this training course to improve my skills and help my progress in my career."

6. Use scripting

When you want to express yourself with assertiveness, you may find it beneficial to use scripting. This requires you to acknowledge your own emotions and how particular situations impact you. Here are several components involved in scripting:

  • The event: When expressing yourself, you might discuss how you interpret the situation.

  • Your emotions: Describe how you feel about the situation or event that occurred.

  • Your needs: Tell the other person about your needs and what you require moving forward.

  • The consequences: Express the consequences if your needs aren't met.

Example: "Hi, Steve. I wanted to talk to you about the production costs this month. They're about 20% higher than normal, and you didn't provide me with any information about it prior to the meeting today, which was a surprise. I'm frustrated because I don't like being surprised, and I'm not sure whether you appreciate the importance of company financials. Moving forward, I require honesty about company financials. By doing this, we can meet our targets for the end-of-year bonus. If not, we won't obtain our bonuses."

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