Does being able to say ‘NO’ without hesitation determine how assertive you are?
Would being able to fight to get your way make you assertive?
Could appearing cooperative while subtly undermining others be counted as assertive behavior?
If not, then what really is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is a communication skill through which people are able to clearly convey their own needs, feelings and opinions. It involves maintaining the delicate balance between speaking up for one’s needs, and at the same time, being respectful of the needs and feelings of others.
People who are able to master this skill are less likely to be vulnerable to emotional difficulties such as anxiety or depression, have higher self-esteem and confidence, and can foster healthier personal and professional relationships. Being assertive also enhances one’s ability to manage conflicts effectively, negotiate ‘win-win’ solutions, treat others fairly, and take on challenges proactively, which are important assets to have in any workspace.
Most importantly, when people communicate assertively about what they need, it can make them feel empowered as it improves their chances of fulfilling their needs from life without hurting others.
Signs of Non-Assertive Communication
Given the benefits that can come from being assertive, it is important for people to be able to identify when they need to consider improving upon this skill. People who struggle with assertiveness are more likely to find that they -
Have difficulty saying 'no', especially to their higher-ups
Speak softly, apologize often, discount their ideas, offer excessive justifications before presenting them (for e.g., Saying "I don't think this will work but (…)", "this may sound stupid"), and so on
Feel like others often take them for granted and don’t take their feelings into consideration
Can become overly defensive and blame or criticise others when cornered
Try to dominate, intimidate, threaten, humiliate, or control others
Want to have the last word
Appear to cooperate but subtly undermine, resent and sabotage others
Use sarcasm, make snide comments, or mutter to themselves rather than confront the issue
Have difficulties acknowledging their anger and deny that there is a problem
Strategies to Improve Assertiveness at the Workplace
If some of the signs mentioned above hold true for you or your colleagues, it can create tension, affect morale, and drain the output of the workspace as a whole. In such a situation, the following strategies can help with increasing assertive communication.
There may be times when you try being assertive but the situation doesn't work out as you had hoped. In such scenarios, it's important to remain patient and remind yourself that assertiveness is a skill that will develop with practice.