How to be Assertive (not annoying!) at work

There are many different personalities in the workplace, but assertive communication can be incredibly helpful during tough situations that are time-critical or involve important decision making. Sadly, the border between being assertive and annoying is thin, and it’s very easy to overstep your boundaries.

Try following this advice on how to become an assertive communicator, without stepping into the realm of annoying.

Understanding passive, aggressive and assertive

 It’s important to understand these three conversational approaches so that you can tailor your communication skills to fit the assertive profile, without becoming too passive or aggressive.

  • Passive – this approach means that you’re always waiting for someone else to make a suggestion or speak first. This is often known as the path of least resistance. This is the opposite of what it means to be assertive.
  • Aggressive – this approach indicates a very rough approach to conversations. Aggressive individuals can often be confused with assertive people, but there are some distinct differences that need to be explained. An aggressive person will always disagree with others because they believe that their ideas are the best. They don’t take no for an answer and always fight their corner.
  • Assertive – this approach actually mixes the good points of both passive and aggressive conversation. Assertive people will listen to ideas and are flexible, but they’ll also make suggestions after listening to get a better overarching conclusion.

This summarises the differences between each approach, and the type of approach you should take if you want to communicate more assertively and confidently in the workplace.

Listening is important for assertive communication
Assertiveness training for women and men

Next, try following the five techniques below to help you be more assertive at work without being annoying:

1) Don’t talk about things you know nothing about

 Being assertive doesn’t mean showing off your ego or knowledge. That’s something aggressive conversationalists do, and it’s not a productive way to engage in discussions. If you want to be assertive and speak up about a topic, make sure you are knowledgeable about the topic or you’ll quickly lose credibility with your co-workers.

2)  Accept that you won’t always be right

 Aggressive types don’t like it when they’re proved wrong and will always argue their corner. Assertive types know that “being right” has nothing to do with being assertive. It’s all about offering your educated opinion on a subject and listening when someone more knowledgeable starts to talk.

3) Never let your ego get in the way of a conversation

 Assertive people know how to suppress their ego, so their emotions don’t get in the way of conversations that require rational and logical thinking. By letting your ego take over, you compromise important discussions and decision-making. If you want to be more assertive, you need to learn to think logically and avoid letting your ego get in the way.

4) Always listen to people before adding your opinion

Listening is just as important as speaking, even if you want to be assertive. Make sure you always let others speak if they have something to say and pay attention to their input so that you can take it on board.

5) Pick your words carefully

Having an aggressive attitude often means that you act before you think, but this is detrimental if you want to maintain an assertive attitude. Make sure you pick your words carefully so that you don’t seem too bossy or out of place.

Find more tips on assertive communication in our infographic:

Assertiveness Skills