1. Know The Difference Between Assertive And Aggressive
As women, we all know that frustration at having our assertiveness labelled as female aggression, so it’s important to know the difference between the two. “Being assertive and being aggressive are often seen as one and the same, but of course they are completely different,” says Paul. “Being assertive means being a strong communicator and expressing your thoughts, feelings and ideas, but it also means genuinely hearing those of others in return. In contrast, an aggressive communicator will take the bulldozer approach to communication and attempt to force their will on others through bullying tactics.”
2. Avoid Filler Words
It can be hard to come across in a meeting as assertive if you’re punctuating what you’re trying to say with filler works such as “like” and “sort of”. “Assertive language is clear, confident and concise,” says Paul. “It avoids filler words and doesn’t come across as apologetic, so try to avoid phrases that make you sound tentative or unsure.”
However, he advises that assertive language isn’t about pushing your own agenda. It’s still polite, empathetic and understanding – and assertiveness is all about striking that perfect balance. “Try phrases like, ‘I do understand what you are saying. However, have you considered that…’,” advises Paul – that way you keep your assertive edge without putting down others around you.
3. Watch Your Posture
When it comes to assertiveness, it’s not just about what you say. How you carry yourself is going to be the first impression people get of you before you’ve even opened your mouth. Good posture is key: “Don’t sidle into the room as if you have something to hide – walk in confidently with relaxed shoulders and a nice straight back,” says Paul. “Take the initiative and offer that first handshake, say how pleased you are to meet them and make direct eye contact as you do so.”
First impressions count, but where you go from this point will also be crucial in setting you apart from others. Approach others and ask them questions about themselves. Paul believes assertiveness is akin to being self-assured. “It’s all about being sure of yourself and comfortable in your own skin and often this means working on your personal image.”
4. Be A Team Player
There is a fine art to positioning yourself as a team player in the office. By volunteering your time to help with projects, you don’t want to come off as overbearing or a pushover, so how you put this information out into the ether is key. Again, it comes down to using assertive language. “Put the ball in their court,” says Paul. “In a meeting or discussion about a particular project, go ahead and communicate that you’d be pleased to be a part of the project. Then leave it with them. If you are asked to participate in a work opportunity, then do so to the best of your ability, showing that you are a good team player and willing to get involved. It’s about showing you’re capable and willing, without being demanding or overbearing.”
5. Stop Apologising
Again, saying sorry is another thing women are almost conditioned to do in many aspects of their life. It’s a hard habit to break, but important if you want to be assertive. “Being polite is important, and assertiveness should never be gained at the expense of politeness,” explains Paul. “But equally you shouldn’t be sheepish about doing the job you are being paid to do. That’s what you’re there for after all. Working on your confidence, poise and communication skills can help enormously.”
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