How to become more Assertive or less Aggressive

How to become more Assertive or less Aggressive

Assertiveness is being clear about your own position, communicating this to others, and accepting their positions. Essentially it involves taking responsibility for your feelings and beliefs and not attempting to justify them. Assertiveness means standing your ground and standing up for your rights without violating the rights of others.

However, there is a fine line between being assertive and being perceived as aggressive; in particular women in leadership and management positions are often described as aggressive, when in fact they are only being assertive.  Sometimes, as a result of feedback received in a 360 Feedback Review a leader or manager may realize they are being too assertive, whereas others may need to become more assertive:

High Assertiveness: If you are one of those individuals who has completed a Personality Questionnaire and been described as ‘arrogant, controlling, dictatorial or a bulldozer’ then you may be a highly assertive individual, who needs to work on your confrontation and problem-solving technique.  You can try practising using Open Questions to discover the needs of the other person, then acknowledging their needs, often by improving your Active Listening skills, and by offering options and alternative solutions. Other techniques you can adopt include relaxing your shoulders, controlling your breathing, keeping a neutral expression, controlling your voice, concentrating on the problem not the personality, avoiding personal attacks, remaining calm and in control, and aiming for a win-win outcome.

Low Assertiveness:  For those individuals who would like to be more assertive, not be taken for granted or become overloaded with work because you are unable to say 'No' assertively then it's good to remind yourself of the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication, for example, body language, vocal impact, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and posture.  It's also key to examine any irrational thoughts that can prevent you from being assertive and practise techniques to stamp out your negative voice/head chatter/inner critic to overcome Imposter Syndrome. These techniques include remembering positive experiences and making a list of key accomplishments to refer back to when it is necessary to be more assertive and to increase confidence levels.

It's also key to understand the difference between Self- Esteem – what you feel and think about yourself, and Self-Belief – something you might exhibit in a particular situation (or your façade), which can drain away in challenging situations such as having to present to the Exec team!   You can practise being direct and avoiding preambles such as ‘I know you’re really busy but….’ or ‘I’m ever so sorry to trouble you but….’  to ensure you sound more assertive and avoid reverting to type under pressure. 

During Natural Talent's Coaching or Training modules managers also work on the following:

  • Identifying where they are and where they need to be on the Assertiveness Continuum and move nearer their goal
  • Significantly building their confidence by practising tools and techniques 
  • Identifying and practising ways of handling objections and conflict
  • Identifying any further key development areas
  • Setting SMART Action Plans for future development 

'One word to describe this intervention: life-changing! Thank you!'  Senior Manager, Engineering

You can find some of our Client Success Stories here and watch one of our videos here:  Please contact us to discuss your requirements or to book a Coaching or Training module via video call