How to Be More Assertive at Work

Monday, 7 March 2016

We’ve all been there... someone says something slightly scary and confrontational at work and your first instinct is to drop everything, run away at full pelt, and retreat to a small corner somewhere with a lovely, safe cup of tea.

'I’ll do anything you say,' you think, as you panic-nod at them in response, 'just please please please go away!' Cue hours of unwanted work, a very unhappy you and a very self-satisfied (and blissfully unaware) boss/colleague.

But it doesn’t always have to be like this!

By picking up a few tips and tricks, you can learn both how to become more confident in yourself at work and how to stop your workmates from treating you like the total doormat you most certainly are not.

Learning how to be assertive is all about understanding how to make choices that will meet both your needs and the needs of the situation you find yourself in. It’s not about steamrollering your way through and crushing everyone that gets between you and your goal. Instead, it’s more like taking on a new role (the part of the well-informed peacekeeper) whilst simultaneously negotiating yourself a win-win situation. 

The following tips mainly apply to work-based situations but feel free to employ them in your day-to-day life if you ever need a bit of a boost!

Without further ado, here are my Six Strategies to give Assertiveness a go:

#1 Learn how others communicate.
It’s really important to recognise the fact that people communicate in different ways. A tiny bit obvious? Perhaps. But, the key to gaining confidence around co- workers is to understand how and why people communicate in the way they do...and then use this knowledge to your advantage!

Generally speaking, there are four styles of communication:
  • Passive/Aggressive- where you lose and do everything you can to make others lose too
  • Passive- where you lose and everyone else wins
  • Aggressive- where you win and everyone else loses
  • Assertive- where everyone wins
Recognise any of those styles in the people you work with? Recognise any of those traits in yourself? You probably do- everyone’s dabbled in a couple of these styles at least once. No biggie. 

The trick is to understand the difference between these styles and pick out when someone is being too aggressive or too passive when talking to you. Then, all you need to do is adjust how you communicate with them accordingly and come up with a solution that will work best for both parties.

#2 Visualise a New You.
Once you’ve got to grips with what the others are up to, it’s time to start thinking about what's going on with you. Take time to build up an image of the person you would like to be- what is their body language like? How do they approach people? How would they engage with an audience? Paint a picture in your head of this fabulous ‘New You’ and examine the feelings you get as you imagine this person going through your day-to-day routine. How would they deal with that scary presentation you have to do, for example? Probably nail it, right? Imagine an audience applauding that brilliant presentation and relish in the glory. Associating those fantastic feelings of success with yourself is the first step towards feeling confident enough to make them happen for real

#3 Match & Mirror.
If simply picturing that rather sketchy ‘New You’ in your head isn’t enough to make it work for you in the real world, try mirroring the behaviour of others who may be more comfortable than yourself in a certain situation. When we’re at ease, it comes across very clearly through our body language so, a good technique is to try and spot someone in your environment who looks very much at ease and then just copy their body language! You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll begin to feel waaay more comfortable and confident in yourself. 

Practise it now- roll your shoulders back and lift up your chin... feeling Goddess-like enough yet? :) 

#4 Use the ‘Anchor’ technique.
This is a great technique for people who know they perform well in one situation but not necessarily in another. It basically involves training the brain to associate feelings of comfort and ease with a particular movement, gesture or saying. For example, if you’re a really great runner, go for a quick jog around the block...rejoice in all those feelings of satisfaction and achievement... and then pinch yourself in the spot between your thumb and forefinger. A bit weird? Maybe. But after time, you’re brain will start to associate that pinch with the feeling of being all pumped up after a good run, and then you can use that pinch at your disposal to generate those good feelings when and where you need them.

#5 Work at your role.
The easiest way to build your confidence at work is to know your stuff. To really know your stuff. So, to gain a sense of dominance in the workplace, put some extra hours in and get real good at absolutely nailing what it is that you do. Then, the next time someone tries to belittle you, you can hold your head up high and know that you're enough and btw your work is far, far superior to theirs.

#6 And finally, just remember this:

Great advice!

Do you have any tips on how to be more assertive? I must admit, generating self-confidence has never been a strength of mine, so I'd love to hear some more pointers below!

In the meantime,
All the love,

Sian x

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