Assertive Communication for Every Situation

woman sitting around in a meeting

“No worries if not!” 

“Sorry, please could you…” 

“If that makes sense?” 

“If possible, can I have this by the end of the day?” 

“I just wanted to ask…”

Do you find yourself softening your words, even when you’re not saying anything remotely controversial or argumentative? This is known as mitigated speech - speaking in a deferential way to show respect towards someone, usually in a position of authority.

In many cases, mitigated speech can be a good thing. It shows politeness and courtesy to others. However, when taken too far, it can damage our personal boundaries and make us more prone to being taken advantage of.

For example: 

  • It puts your own needs on the back burner in favour of someone else’s time and convenience. 
  • ‘Sorry’ should be a word reserved for wrongdoing. Asking someone to help you or provide you with more information does not fall into that category. 
  • It gives people the impression that you’re overly accommodating and don’t mind being bossed around.
  • It generally comes across as a little insecure and that you’re not confident in your role. ⁣

It’s also more of a female affliction. Women are more likely than men to use tentative language and sugarcoat what’s being said, even if they’re vastly more qualified and competent.

Here’s the thing: being assertive is NOT the same as being rude.

Being assertive is about behaving confidently, having courage in your convictions, standing your ground, and speaking directly without being aggressive. Assertive communication is a key skill that helps us excel in the workplace and our personal lives.

But how do you draw the line between curt and confident? Here are our top tips! 

Practice saying no 

Did you know that ‘no, thank you’ is a complete sentence? You don’t always need to provide a lengthy explanation to justify your decision. You don’t need to say yes to keep other people happy if it inconveniences you. Don’t hesitate and be direct - if they’re worth your time, they’ll understand!

women in a meeting

Remove unnecessary words

Common offenders include ‘just’, ‘sorry’, and ‘I was wondering’. Newsflash: you can be direct, succinct and polite all at once without stuffing your questions or opinions with unnecessary words.

“I was wondering if it would be possible to send across” = “please could you send across.” Voila!

Rehearse what you want to say

Have you ever heard the saying “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”? For some of us, standing our ground or sharing our opinions can be a nerve-wracking prospect. If you find it challenging to say what you want or think, practice general scenarios you encounter. Rehearse what you want to say in front of a friend, or write out a brief script so you don’t forget your key points. Practice makes perfect!

Use “I” statements

Using “I” sentences lets other people know how you’re feeling without coming across as abrasive or accusatory. For example, “I disagree” sounds far more diplomatic than “you’re wrong”. Keep your requests and opinions simple and specific.

two women and a man in a meeting

Start small

Assertive communication is a skill that requires fine-tuning and emotional intelligence. Practice your skills in low-risk situations that won’t result in a spectacular miscommunication! Try out your assertiveness on a partner or friend before you tackle a challenging situation at work. Assess how your comments were received and tweak your approach as necessary. 

Remember, perfecting assertive communication won’t happen overnight. If you’ve spent years silencing yourself and avoiding any kind of confrontation, it’ll take time and practice. Similarly, if you’re easily frustrated and stressed, learning how to be more measured requires patience and mindfulness. Once you’re able to express your true feelings without panicking, the payoff will be worth it!

Are you ready to go from wallflower to queen of confidence? Our undated weekly planner has a dedicated section for intentions so you can chart your goals and feel empowered to take control of your life.

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