Why Being Assertive at Work Matters

17 March 2022

Being assertive at work might help you become a model employee. You could create career opportunities for yourself and increase your happiness and fulfillment at work. Since you could communicate clearly and directly what you want and need without tramping on others, you earn the respect of your colleagues. They want to hear your opinion on tasks and projects.

If you are not a naturally assertive person, you might find it hard to voice out your opinions and concerns. This is especially true for those who grew up in a family where members exercise communication with one another passively.

This does not mean that you are a lost cause. You could train yourself to be assertive and eventually stand up for yourself when a situation calls for it. You could learn to do it healthily and respectfully that won’t drive people away from you or hold grudges against you.

What exactly is assertiveness?

SkillsYouNeed.com explains that assertiveness entails “being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive or passively accepting ‘wrong’.” Again, if not natural to you, the communication skill can be learned. Once you do, you gain others’ respect and foster trusting relationships at work. And most importantly, you could use this trait not only at work but also with your life in general.

We acknowledge that people have different personalities. There are people who are not afraid to stand up for themselves when something is bothering them. They have the confidence to assert what they want and need. And there are other people who have the opposite personality. These are the people who would rather be passive and would not interfere with a situation, letting it be as it is. These people have to learn assertiveness so that their lives are balanced with fulfilling their personal wants and needs and also meeting a compromise with others who have their own desires.

Trust us that people respect those who are assertive. They know they can’t manipulate or deceive you to get what they want. They know you as someone who is independent can handle yourself on your own. You won’t be bottling your emotions up and won’t explode anytime when you’ve already had enough. You have an increased view of yourself and won’t be suffering from anxiety and stress brought about by situations you don’t feel being stuck in.

According to BetterUp, there is a study on assertiveness that found out anxiety reduced on students who received an assertiveness training.

There should be mutual respect between you and another colleague when you exercise your assertiveness. Because of this recognized mutual respect, you could say your message with a clear and direct language and tone. You won’t be easily dragged down by others’ opinion of you because you respect yourself and your worth as a person. More importantly, you are never disrespectful or hurtful when you stand up for yourself in a conflict. You are able to resolve it amicably and without breaking any strings. Aside from that, your team members will look up to you and respect you as a leader. Why is this so? Because your inferiors know you as someone who is fair and just and would come up with a sound decision that goes by the rulebook.

How do you say when someone is assertive at the workplace?

For one, you could express your views and opinions directly while being respectful to your listening colleagues. Another one is that you could establish and maintain eye contact when you address a certain situation. Being able to genuinely say sorry and learn from a personal mistake is another sign that you are assertive. You also consider everyone’s opinion and weigh it with your personal view before you make a decision that will affect everyone. You don’t undermine your contributions to a project and you also acknowledge everyone’s part in it. You are able to credit everyone for the job well done, and yes, that includes yourself.

So how does one become assertive at work?

Use statements with an “I”

Even though you are assertive, you don’t judge others as wrong when they disagree with you. There’s no need for you to look outward and you focus on your “I.” It’s really about asking for the respect that these needs of yours must be met and that your perspective is heard, recognized, and valued.

Do not throw shade at anyone by being clear and using an “I” statement when you are saying your point. For instance, instead of seemingly attacking a colleague who vapes in the conference room by saying “you should stop using your vape during meetings,” you should go instead with “I feel that my presence is not considered when we share the same airspace.”

Maintain eye contact.

As much as possible, do not lose that direct gaze. Look at the person you are talking to directly. You could start by having eye contact with someone you are comfortable with.

Use confident body language

Your words may be confident but your body language might be saying a different story. Practice standing upright (tip: using standing desk converters while working can improve your posture) and put your head up high when you’re confronting or talking with a colleague.

You might look tensed if you cross your arms and legs so as much as possible avoid this position. Do not take the space of the other person but lean forward to establish closeness.

Know when to say “no.”

Do not be sorry when you say “no” to things that you do not want. Do not bother yourself thinking about an alternative way to say it, just say the word “no.” For instance, if the company won’t pay for overtime, say “I won’t do unpaid overtime because I feel that it is unfair to me and my colleagues.”

Practice conversations in your head.

Being assertive takes time for most people. Train yourself and practice conversations in front of a mirror. Record the interaction on your phone and feel how the conversation will play out in real life. Use clear and direct language.

Be ready to hear positive or negative feedback.

Take compliments when you hear them. It’s not being arrogant.

Do not be defensive when negative feedback or constructive criticism is thrown your way. Be open to why they are saying what they said. Know that the feedback will help you improve.