Assertive communication is defined as clear, direct, honest statement of feelings; use of “l” messages; speaking up appropriately for oneself while considering the needs, wants, and rights of others.
One of the most effective ways to communicate confidence is to use assertive communication but a lot of people (but women in particular in my experience) find this challenging.
Part of the problem is the lack of confidence to use “I” statements in assertive communication, (that goes against some of the lessons we have learned about always putting others first).
1. Visualize the person you want to be. How would that person behave and communicate? Do you currently exhibit this behavior and what do you have to change?
2. Ask for feedback from trusted colleagues about the way you are coming across. This would be a great discussion with a mentor as well.
3. Practice using “I” statements. Stay true to your feelings without blaming others and state your opinions clearly.
4. Accept compliments with grace. Say “thank you”. It’s simple but somehow we always find the need to give credit to others or discredit the compliment. Give example of someone saying you did a good job and you say the team did it. Well, what was your part in the team effort? What was your contribution? Acknowledge. Don’t downplay the compliment. Take credit.
5. Practice giving your opinion at least once during every meeting and make it a goal to speak during every meeting.
6. Practice saying “no!” especially when people (your boss or direct reports) delegate inappropriately to you. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on the work when it’s not appropriate.
7. Ask for what you need. No one knows everything and the best leaders are those that acknowledge this. Not asking for what you need may sabotage your efforts in the long run.
8. Practice expressing your opinion clearly and confronting issues head-on using “I” statements. Avoid the inclination to backpedal and negate your true feelings.
9. Build your self-confidence and stay focused on your value. This gives you the courage to communicate effectively. Make sure you are balancing your communication style so that it is not aggressive or passive aggressive.
10. Focus on unhooking emotionally from situations with difficult bosses and colleagues.Instead focus on your reaction. You can’t control their behavior. You can only control your reaction.
11. Do your homework. When you are negotiating for a raise or asking for a promotion, have all the history and facts about your specific accomplishments and how they have impacted the business. Use benefit language that includes specific outcome and results rather than your effort involved.
My advice is to start practicing assertive communication in a non-threatening situation such as with a customer service representative, waiter or bank teller. When you are faced with a situation in which you feel compromised or disappointed, use “I” statements to clearly express your opinion and build your comfort level with assertive communication over time.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful.