Assertiveness Training for Female Managers

by Ben Richardson
26th September 2019    4 Minutes
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Assertiveness is a brilliant trait to have as a manager.

When you are being assertive, you are communicating your needs in a way that is also respectful of others. This means that they feel that they understand where they stand with you as their manager and also that they feel able to come to you and openly discuss any issues and concerns.

But just how easy is it to be a confident and assertive manager as a female?

Many males and females struggle with assertiveness a lot. The differences are relatively small, however, there are differences between the two sexes as this academic review has confirmed.

Women tend to struggle with assertiveness more than men, they also tend to undermine themselves in a specific set of ways.

As ever we’re all different and generalisations are never correct for one individual, however, it’s also worth having a think about the list below if you are a female that thinks she struggles with assertiveness as it might give you a useful tip or two.

Remember that assertiveness is not something people are born with. It’s a learned skill. Practice and being taught the basics go a long way. We cover the basics of assertiveness on our assertiveness courses in London.

Tone:

Women often end their sentences and definitive statements with a lift in tone at the end. This communicates doubt as it sounds a little like a question and communicates self-doubt and deference.

The trick to fixing this one is actually to practice raising your tone on the penultimate syllable of a sentence. This means that your voice will naturally drop for the final syllable of a sentence and you’ll have avoided finishing with a raised tone.

Practicing this for a few minutes a day for a couple of weeks can be all that is required.

Waiting Your Turn:

If you are in a meeting or discussion many women default to waiting for their turn to add their contribution rather than diving in.

This is fundamentally a confidence issue with you not having the confidence to dive in and make your point.

Great exercises to help build your confidence include power posing and avoiding ruminating on negative thoughts.

Body Language That Screams Lack Of Confidence:

It is a stereotype but there is a ‘bundle’ of habits that women often have which all signal a lack of confidence. These include a weak handshake and deferential body language, smiling too much, laughing too often, trailing off and not finishing sentences properly, taking up too little space, and defaulting to questions rather than statements.

Again these are a down to a lack of confidence at heart and the exercises mentioned above would help. Another way to build confidence is simply to start taking action. Although this is difficult and some people find it very counter-intuitive it is a well known and understood technique.

Expressing Themselves In A Disorganised Manner:

Some people’s sentences are so filled with caveats, apologies and unnecessary explanations that they muddle their main points. This means that they are viewed as ‘fuzzy’ thinkers who have not learned to communicate clearly and so their views down valued.

The simplest way to get on top of this is to use a conversational structure.

Many people use PRES which stands for:

  • Point: Begin by making your point clearly and unambiguously.
  • Reason: Explain the ‘why’ behind the point that you just made.
  • Example: Give an example to demonstrate the reason that you just gave.
  • Summary: Summarise your point and then stop talking!

Assertive Electronic Communication & Emails

The advice above for expressing yourself clearly, even in a difficult conversation also stands for emails as well.

Many people struggle to be clear and assertive in emails. The giveaways for this are too many questions, qualifiers and exclamation marks.

To write a clear assertive mail the trick is to put your ask or main point upfront just as you did with the PRES framework above for a conversation.

Once you’ve clearly stated your issue or ask you can then explain further but this makes your point or request absolutely clear.

If you feel that your email is too harsh and want to soften it with some less work content like “Hope you had a good weekend?” that’s fine but make sure you do so at the end of your email.

 

As we said earlier, assertiveness is a big issue for both sexes but females do tend to fall into certain traps more often than males. Hopefully, this article will help you to spot if you are falling into these traps.