What does the word assertive mean to you? It will mean different things depending on your own personal behaviours and beliefs.
Simplified, being assertive is about finding the right balance between being passive and aggressive. And confidence is a big factor that contributes to the way you handle situations at work.
In management, being accountable for a team and the results they produce requires assertiveness. So, it is a vital skill to work on especially for day to day communication with your team.
It can take a lot more than just speaking clearly to make sure that you’ve understood. Being assertive gets your message across with an intended tone that represents your values and working style.
In this article, we discuss how to adapt certain behaviours and deal with confidence issues that can help you be more assertive.
How to Assess your Assertiveness In General
The first step to becoming more assertive is knowing where you are currently. You probably already have an idea of whether you take a more passive or aggressive approach to management.
Here are links to a couple of great assertiveness questionnaires that will help you to assess where you are currently if you’re not sure:
A quick one which is only 5 questions: http://www.janesunley.com/Assertiveness-Questionnaire
A more in-depth one with 20 questions: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/tests/personality/assertiveness-test
Knowing where you are on the scale and will help you work on individual elements that will build your confidence.
For example, verbal and non-verbal communication. You may say something assertive but not communicate it in an assertive way.
You might say “I need that update as soon as possible.”, but if your body language is closed, your volume lowered, and you fail to make eye contact, the listener won’t be able to see that your request is necessary and urgent, or worse will feel that you simply don’t want to interact with them for some reason.
How To Assess Your Assertiveness In Detail
Once you have a good idea of where you are currently you now need to think in detail about areas that you can work on.
To assess your own assertiveness, think of a recent situation where you have had to ask someone to do something. Think about how you handled the situation each step of the way, and if you wished at the time you had handled it differently.
There are obviously hundreds of different ways to assess the interaction so the list below isn’t exhaustive. It’s really just supposed to trigger thoughts for you to help you get a handle on how you performed.
Before The Interaction: What were your emotions leading up to making the request?
You knew it was a reasonable request and were confident you would get a positive response. If there was an issue you felt that it could be easily discussed and dealt with.
You worried about how you would come across and if you would be taken seriously and / or if they would respond well to the request.
You were confident in the way you would come across, but the request might be too much to ask.
You felt that it was your job to make the request and you wouldn’t take no for an answer and weren’t worried about how the request would be perceived.
During The Interaction: How did you feel actually making the requests?
Your tone displayed your comfort in making the request and that it would be positive to have the work completed and cleared up.
Were you to the point and clear and not nervous and talking around the subject rather than addressing it head-on.
You weren’t happy with having to make the request and felt uncomfortable.
You didn’t want to put the work onto someone else as you felt bad for them.
During The Interaction: What was your physical response?
Open Or Closed Body Language?
Was your posture good and did it show that you were relaxed and open? Or worse where you closed and hiding behind your desk or similar?
Shaking And / Or Shaking?
Did you feel nervous and anxious? Did this manifest itself in stumbling on words or similar.
Was your volume appropriate or too loud or too quiet?
During The Interaction: How did you respond to their answer? Did your verbal communication match your non-verbal communication?
Patient / Impatient?
Did you allow them time to respond fully and encourage them to do so, or did you try to rush them and not give them time to explain their points fully?
Smiling / Happy?
You all agreed on a course of action and left the conversation confidently.
Angry / Aggressive?
You weren’t happy with their response and let them know.
Unhappy / Defensive?
It wasn’t an ideal response, but you didn’t want to put anyone out.
Think about what you said and how you said it.
Eye Contact? Did you make eye contact?
Volume: Did you speak at an appropriate level to be clearly heard but not to browbeat people?
Tone: Did your tone convey the message you wanted to?
After The Interaction: Did you feel relaxed about how the conversation went?
When you look back on the interaction do you feel that it went well and that you acted appropriately?
Do you still worry that they are resentful of you request?
Do you worry that they haven’t fully understood your request?
Do you get frustrated that they asked lots of questions and couldn’t ‘just get on with it’ and stop holding you up?
Think about the outcome of your request and how you responded to it on reflection. What you would change if you could have the same conversation again?
The aim of this exercise is to help you work on the parts that didn’t work so well and also what went well.
Of course, you can’t be expected to make notes on every situation at work, but by self-assessing key interactions, it will give you pointers about the areas where you can make the biggest gains.
Assertiveness isn’t just about how you see yourself, it is about being seen as a trustful and honest person. You can really win people over with the right balance and use it to build powerful relationships.
It can also help you to manage your time well in knowing how to get tasks done without worrying about the little things.
Being a manager doesn’t mean anxieties go away, but there are ways to adapt certain behaviours so asking for help and delegating tasks don’t make you feel nervous or guilty.
Remember that your reaction to a situation is down to you.
If you aren’t happy with a particular response, it is up to you to turn it around so that next time you react differently. Assertive people are confident and take ownership. Own your reaction and find a way to improve it.
The key to assertive communication is being respectful of everyone’s feelings your own included.
No-one’s feelings are more important than another’s and so everyone’s should be taken into consideration.
Avoid being misunderstood by making your intentions and requests clear. Monitor your volume and make sure it is appropriate for the conversation.
There are ways to show assertiveness by listening to other people and welcoming their input.
This also means anticipating questions and coming prepared with responses or suggestions.
Being assertive does not mean that you are right all of the time.
Even in heated conversations, make sure that you invite suggestions as this shows that you want to move the conversation forward and are focused on the business issue rather than personal issues.
The purpose of learning assertive behaviours is not to change yourself but to work on the individual habits and behaviours that aren’t working so well.
There will always be room for improvement and in fact, making the first step to change those behaviours is assertive in itself as in doing so you are showing confidence in your ability to change and improve.