Are You a Pushover? 3 Tips to Increase Your Assertiveness at Work

Apr 22, 2014

Have you ever:

  • Wanted to speak up during a meeting, but were worried what others would think?
  • Had a co-worker ask you to take over some of their work when you were already overloaded, but you said yes anyway?
  • Wanted to address a difficult topic with your boss, such as a promotion, but kept pushing it off?

Many people avoid situations that require them to speak up because they want to avoid conflict or worry about what others might think of them. Instead they take the passive route of not rocking the boat and being the “nice guy.”

While other people tend to love the “nice guy”, it can leave you feeling resentful, overwhelmed and stuck.

If you are a passive communicator, you need to learn how to voice your opinions, say no and ask for what you want. Being assertive is an important work skill.

While you might fear that others will respond poorly to you giving your opinion, the opposite is true. Not only do you gain self-confidence, but it tends to improve how people view you and earns you more respect and creates more honest relationships.

Just remember that being assertive is not the same thing as being aggressive. Aggressive people appear pushy and sometimes come off as being bullies.

Assertiveness is the sweet spot when it comes to communicating. You demonstrate healthy confidence and stand up for yourself and your rights, while respecting others. You are direct and honest with people. You speak up when something is bothering you and ask if you want or need something. All while being calm and civil. You also understand that others have the right to disagree with you or say no.

Here are three quick tips to being more assertive at work:

1. Don’t expect people to read your mind

Don’t make the mistake of believing that other people know what you think or how you feel. For example, don’t assume your co-worker already knows you have five projects on the go when they ask you for help with their work. Most people are only concerned with what’s going on in their own lives.

You need to take responsibility of your own problems. It’s up to you to speak up and say what’s on your mind. Don’t be silent and assume others know what you are thinking.

2. Use confident body language and tone

Your body says more about you than your words ever will. Work on your body language when you are speaking. For example, keep your shoulders squared, not hunched and your chin up. Don’t fidget and make an effort to look people in the eye. Try not to cross your arms.

Not only will others receive your words better, but having confident body language will actually make you feel more confident as well.

When you have something to say, don’t rush. Rushing gives the appearance that you don’t think people will make the time to listen. Speaking slowly indicates to people that you are worth the wait.

While you need to speak slowly, do be concise and not long-winded.  Use a clear, calm voice and try to avoid saying um or like.

It helps to know what you want to get out of a situation before going in. Know what you want to achieve. Rehearsing what you have to say beforehand helps to increase your confidence going in.

3. Understand you’re not responsible for the feelings and behaviour of others

It’s not your responsibility to keep everyone happy. Sometimes conflict is necessary. You don’t need to feel guilty about not giving someone what they want or disagreeing with someone. You only need to be responsible for how you behave or feel.

Do know that you are responsible for the consequences of your actions though. Being assertive sometimes means ruffling feathers and having to deal with some unpleasantness.

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