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How Practicing Assertiveness Can Help Professional Performance

Assertiveness is considered to be one of the core communication skills. People who are assertive have more self-esteem, confidence and are able to effectively communicate their point of view to others.  Such a skill is a hallmark of leadership and may be a differential when being considered for career advancement.

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Being assertive does not have to be viewed with negative connotations of persons who are seen as being pushy, rude or insensitive to the feelings and needs of others. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, assertive people display mutual respect towards others.  A person who asserts themselves tends to be diplomatic in their dealings, resolving conflict in an open communication style.  Assertiveness also helps you reduce stress and better manage your anger.

What ways can you learn to practice assertiveness in order to become effective with this type of communication style?  Understanding that assertiveness may not be a natural way of communicating for some, it is important to assess your level of assertiveness in order to determine what actions to take to become more assertive.

Assessing Your Assertiveness

How assertive are you?  Establishing a baseline assessment of your level of assertiveness through an online test is an important first step.  Such an assessment helps you determine how you react in certain situations and if you are deemed highly assertive, passively-aggressive, or a passive person.

The distinctions between these communication type can be significant, particularly when it comes to job satisfaction, advancement and reward.

The Problem with Being a Passive Person

You say yes to an assignment on a project team from your supervisor, even though you are struggling to keep pace with current assignments. You are told to meet a friend at the train station by 9 PM for a ride home. You agree, even though you don’t have time to do so.  You willing pay the pub tab for your friends, a practice that seems to fall on your shoulders more times than it does for anyone else in your group.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?  If they do, you probably tend to display passive tendencies.  Often confused with being polite or respectful, it’s easy to be viewed a push over and you often then end up bottling up your frustrations and concerns. This creates stress, which can later manifest itself as illness, anger or worse.

Practicing Your Assertiveness (and Feeling Ok About It)

Being assertive takes practice. It is important however to understand that as a communication style, assertiveness is synonymous with mutual respect.  Assertiveness is not aggressiveness, abusiveness, or being disrespectful towards others. If you are assertive, you are letting your voice be heard, taking into account the feeling of others, and reaching a mutual desirable outcome that benefits all parties.

Referencing the examples above, a passive person can be taken advantage of since the style seeks to shy away from confrontation.  Being willing and eager to place the needs of others before yours may avoid conflict but also communicates that you are the type of person who is willing to say yes to everything, regardless of the effect on you.

Practicing assertiveness starts with the words “no” or “I can’t.” You can practice saying these words in a respectful manner but the bottom line is to say them.  You will find by learning how to say no and being comfortable with the use of the word will help you learn to express yourself, communicate your needs and ultimately, gain confidence and earn the respect of your colleagues.

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