Five Strategies to Improve Your Assertiveness at Work


If you often find it difficult to stand up for yourself at work, then you’re not alone. The personality trait is known by psychologists as ‘agreeableness’. This describes your motivation to get along with other people – and if you’re very agreeable, that motivation to get on with others can sometimes lead to you agreeing to things you don’t actually want and prevent you from standing up for your own interests. It’s a case of ‘too much of a good thing’!

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At work, any time you ask for something there is a risk that the answer will be ‘no’, and that you will possibly irritate the person that you have asked. So, if you’re a highly agreeable person, you will quite likely put off from asking in the first place. Again, this is a problem. It means that you’re probably not as productive as you could be as you’re doing everything yourself. It also probably means that your team are missing out on development opportunities.

So, what can you do to be more assertive at work, even if it’s just not your personality?

#1. Try Coaching:

Many people who struggle to ask for what they want at work are worried that in doing so, they’re going to look selfish or lazy. But most of the time, this isn’t the case at all. In fact, asking politely for something, like a pay rise, when you’re armed with a strong argument for it can actually impress your employer with your confidence levels and research abilities. If you find this really difficult a good way to get the ball rolling can be to go on a training course. Assertiveness training will show you how to develop these skills and build your confidence, so you feel more comfortable asking for what you need.

#2. Avoid Hedging:

If you’re concerned about making a certain request then there are lots of different ways that you might show it, even if you’re trying not to. The way that you phrase the request itself can show your concern and give your lack of confidence away. Hedging involves using phrases and expressions like ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, or ‘technically’, which water down what you’re saying, and make you appear and sound less confident.

Try to some out with your request as a straightforward question without any of these types of qualifying words. It will make you appear much more confident.

#3. Leave a Good First Impression:

People aren’t just influenced by the content of your statement or request, they are also influenced by the way that you put them forward.

One of the best ways to practice appearing confident when you make your request is to treat it as you would when meeting somebody you want to make a good impression on for the first time.

We all know that when meeting somebody for the first-time making eye contact, standing tall and firmly shaking hands will leave a good first impression. Put these strategies into practice when you ask for what you want.

#4. Give a Short Reason:

It’s always crucial that you are able to justify your request but make sure you don’t over justify.

A short, statement of the underlying purpose or need for your request is a good way to ensure that you sound assertive whilst being respectful of the person you are asking.

Giving a reason helps because it is able to shift people from simply making a yes no decision to deciding whether or not they agree or disagree with the reason. And if you want to increase your chances of getting what you want then bear in mind that sometimes, the sheer effort of having to deal with the reason can be enough to get people to agree.

#5. There’s No Harm in Asking:

Last but not least, remember that people at your workplace who act as gatekeepers for resources are fully prepared for the fact that they are going to be asked for things. Managers, in particular, know that it’s all part of the job – part of successfully managing a team is determining how resources should be best allocated, and they expect to have to manage requests.

Approaching somebody at work with a request is by no means inappropriate, and, most of the time, nobody is going to be angry with you or see you in a different light if they have to refuse your request – most of the time they will just be doing their best to manage the organisation’s resources, and it won’t be personal.

If it helps, you might want to remember that your managers and supervisors don’t feel bad when they ask you to do things, so there’s no reason for you to feel bad about reciprocating. In fact, not asking for what you need can sometimes hinder organisational goals, so speaking out is the best thing that you can do.

Put these strategies into practice, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more assertive employee in no time.

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