Assertiveness is an essential skill if you want to advance your career. It’s not about being aggressive or getting what you want at the expense of other people’s feelings – but rather a way of politely standing up for yourself, asking for what you want, saying no to unreasonable requests, and achieving ‘win-win’ outcomes.
Assertiveness in an individual can be defined as someone who is not afraid to say what they believe, or ask for what they want. It’s about acting with confidence, authority and assurance – even when you might not feel it. Assertiveness is usually about getting people to do what you want or agree with your thoughts – but without making them feel like they have been bullied into doing so. It isn’t about being pushy, demanding or aggressive. So how can it help your career?
1. Learning to say no: there are often times at work when you really should say no. Unreasonable requests from colleagues and superiors can drive you crazy and prevent you from achieving the best with whatever it is you should be focusing on. Being assertive allows you to set limits for yourself without being seen as the bully. Learning to say ‘no’ to unreasonable requests whether your plate is full or it just isn’t a good fit for your focus or skillset is a very important talent for anyone at any level. Understand that you will never be able to please everyone, and be OK with that. Know your limits and what will cause you to feel taken advantage of. If you feel guilty saying no (which you shouldn’t), try suggesting a viable alternative as a way of relieving that feeling.
2. Getting people to do what you want: let’s call this persuasion because being persuasive is another way to win in your career. This is about convincing people, in a nice way that they need to do something. It’s about being able to negotiate an outcome you want but again without being a bully. You can do this by demonstrating the ‘win-win’ – i.e. what’s in it for the other person if they do it. You should plan out what you’re going to say first, so your ideas come across clearly and confidently. Get to the point quickly and don’t include unnecessary information. Practicing what you’re going to say out loud can help because an idea that sounds great in your head may not sound as compelling when spoken out loud. A big part in successfully convincing other people to do something for you is listening – let the other person talk so you can acknowledge what they’re thinking and address any concerns they may have.
3. Increasing your salary: if you’re waiting to get noticed for a pay rise, you might wait forever. Taking control of your salary and negotiating what you’re worth is an important part of your career progression but we understand that many people do lack confidence when it comes to money. One of the best ways to ask for a pay rise is to put your initial request in writing and then meet with your boss to discuss. By putting together a written proposal you’ll be forced to think hard about your achievements and the reasons why your request for a pay rise is valid. This thought process alone will provide you with more confidence to discuss it. But you must ask – it’s rare that anyone will just hand it to you.
4. Getting a new job: assertiveness is a very important factor in determining how well you perform at an interview. It will help you to come across as a confident candidate who will be proactive and results-focused. You can demonstrate your assertiveness by maintaining direct eye contact (without staring); talking clearly and firmly with confidence, and maintaining a relaxed and open posture. Avoid devaluing your contributions by using negative or ambiguous language. Try not to use words like ‘only’, ‘just’ or ‘maybe’. Refer to pre-written notes or your Resume without reading from any documents and make sure to ask some well thought out questions to demonstrate your interest in the role and company while showing that you’ve done some research. Be confident in your responses without being smug.
Assertiveness is an essential asset for any successful employee. It’s worth taking some time to develop this skill to help you get ahead in your career, but remember it can take time. Use online resources, read books or enlist the help of an expert.