How To Be More Assertive Without Overdoing It

‘There is a clear and dramatic distinction between assertiveness and aggression. In good management this is not about having your own way at all costs: Assertiveness is about asking for what you want, and having the ability to listen, discuss and negotiate to the point where you have some, or all, of what you wanted without harming or bullying the other party.

Think first

A good starting point on the road to becoming more assertive is to know what you want before you open your mouth. What do you want to gain, think about how you will communicate this so that you do not get distracted or taken away from your chosen path. The other obvious factor here is about being concise – always, always keep it short and simple!

Think about DESC:

  • Describe the problem
  • Explain, clearly and objectively, the effect the issue is having
  • Specify a solution for dealing with the issue
  • Consequences – what will happen if the problem remains unsolved and things continue as they are currently

All issues can easily be broken down into a DESC model which then gives you a clear framework from which to move forward.

Choose your next words carefully

The language you use when you actually hold these conversations will be important. If you want to say no to a request, for instance, without being aggressive, start your sentence with an outright ‘no’ (apologies are out) and then give reasons rather than excuses.

Similarly, watch the body language – if you need to make a request, constant fidgeting and avoiding eye contact will do you no good.

Genuinely assertive people also have no problem hearing others out – remember that you do not have to agree with the other side! Accept what they are saying, show some understanding as this will allow trust to grow and develop. This will greatly increase your chances of reaching an agreement.

The final stage is perhaps the most important. Practise, practise, practise. Only by putting principles such as thinking before you speak and not over-apologising into practice will they stick.

By doing this you will avoid the trap of aggressive behaviour and you are far more lilely to get the result that you want!

Good Luck!

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