How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

In the professional world, the ability to be assertive is an invaluable skill, especially when dealing with senior managers, clients, and stakeholders.

Assertiveness is expressing your needs, opinions, and boundaries with confidence and respect.

Here are 8 useful strategies you can adopt as you aim to master this essential art in the workplace.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Recognising the Importance of Assertiveness

Senior managers, clients, and stakeholders often hold significant influence, and navigating interactions with them requires a delicate balance of respect and assertiveness. Being assertive in these situations establishes your credibility, ensures your contributions are acknowledged, and fosters a more transparent and productive working relationship.

Confidence in Your Communication

Confidence is the cornerstone of assertiveness. Before engaging with senior managers, clients, or stakeholders, take the time to prepare. Confidence comes from knowledge, so arm yourself with the facts, anticipate questions or concerns, and be ready to articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely.

Choosing the Right Language

The language you use plays a crucial role in assertive communication. Be direct and specific in expressing your ideas, needs, or concerns. Avoid ambiguous or overly apologetic language that may undermine your message. For example, instead of saying, “I’m not sure, but maybe we could consider…” say, “I recommend that we explore this approach because…”

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Setting Boundaries Diplomatically

Senior managers, clients, and stakeholders may have demanding expectations, and it’s essential to set boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance. When faced with unrealistic deadlines or excessive workloads, assertively communicate your capacity and negotiate more realistic expectations. For instance, say, “I understand the urgency of this project, but given my current workload, I propose extending the deadline by a week to ensure we can deliver high-quality results.”

Active Listening and Constructive Feedback

When engaging with senior managers, clients, or stakeholders, listen attentively to their perspectives and concerns. Acknowledge their input before presenting your own, and be open to collaborative problem-solving. Constructive feedback should be framed positively, focusing on solutions rather than dwelling on issues.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients

Managing Conflicts Professionally

When conflicts arise, address them promptly and professionally. Use “I” statements to express your feelings or concerns without placing blame. For example, say, “I feel there might be a misunderstanding, and I would appreciate the opportunity to clarify my perspective.”

Adapting to Different Communication Styles

Being assertive requires adaptability. Pay attention to the communication preferences of senior managers, clients, and stakeholders. Tailor your approach to align with their preferences, whether it’s providing concise written updates, scheduling regular face-to-face meetings, or using data-driven presentations.

Balancing Confidence and Humility

Assertiveness doesn’t mean arrogance. Balancing confidence with humility is crucial in building positive relationships. Acknowledge the expertise of others and be open to learning from their experiences. A collaborative and humble approach fosters a culture of mutual respect, making assertive communication more effective and well-received.

How to be Assertive with Senior Managers and Clients


Mastering the art of assertiveness when dealing with senior managers, clients, and stakeholders is essential for professional success. By building confidence, choosing the right language, setting boundaries, actively listening, managing conflicts professionally, adapting to communication styles, and balancing confidence with humility, individuals can navigate these crucial interactions with effectiveness and integrity.

Further Reading

Assertiveness Simplified

Ten Ways to be more Assertive at Work