Some people think assertiveness is aggression - a verbalattack (or worse) on another person. Others think they'rebeing assertive, when in fact they're being rude oroverbearing. Surveys show that skill ininterpersonal communication tops the list for success - orfailure - in any workplace, whether you own it, lead it, orwork in it.

Skillful assertiveness

Skillful assertiveness goes hand in hand with a person'sconfidence, good judgment, decision making,performance, health, and overall effectiveness. From abusiness perspective, an assertive employee or leader canhelp:

  • Reduce confusion and inefficiencies caused by misunderstandings and crossed wires
  • Clearly communicate one's vision and goals
  • Motivate others to rally around an idea or program
  • Eliminate the meetings, tough decisions, and backpedaling that result from someone's original intention to "keep the peace" rather than be assertive

Assertiveness can help strengthenrelationships, reduce stress, improve your self-image, andmake you more successful. So why isn't everyoneassertive? People cite fear of reprisals, reluctanceto rock the boat, desire to please others, and lowconfidence as reasons why they are not assertive. While ittakes honest self-awareness and hard work to realize whyyou are not assertive, youcan learn how to be more assertive and apply it to your interactions.

Practical tips for being assertive

  • Realize that it's all in your head. In situations whereyou feel you are not speaking your mind, ask yourselfwhy and then ask, "What's the worst thing that couldhappen if I share my thoughts in a civil, clear manner?"The answers to these questions may very well be all youneed to calm down and act assertively.Very often, people will see how silly their fears are andthat the fears are rooted in their minds, not reality.
  • Let your intentions motivate your response. Allowyourself to take a moment and identify your beliefs,opinions, and intentions for sharing a thought. The desire toplease others often gets in the way of a person'sthinking process and opinion formation.
  • Be specific. Don't say, "We need that ASAP." Insteadsay, "I need the proposal finished and on my desk by 8a.m. Friday. What do you need to accomplish that?" The more you can avoid assumptions or mixed messages, thebetter.
  • Don't feign agreement. Don't substitute smiling,nodding, or adopting other body language that suggestsagreement just for the sake of keeping the peace.Disagree actively, but do it in a civil manner! Expressdisagreement with the idea, not the person -- for example, "I haveanother opinion, which I'd like to throw on the table."
  • Ask for clarification. Request more information whenasked to do something you believe is unreasonable.Perhaps the explanation will help you understand therequest more fully and give you the confidence andassurance to say yes or no.