Those who are assertive are much more likely to stand up for themselves and others to ensure positive outcomes. An assertive person would rarely accept a “wrong” decision that negatively impacts themselves or others. This is a critical skill to both protect your own interests and those of others around you, but also to ensure that you manage your own stress and mental wellbeing. After all, it is usually external circumstances that lead to us feeling stressed, anxious, and so on. Our boss, spouse or others keep on adding things to our to do list and if we are not assertive and able to say no, then we begin to feel overwhelmed. Therefore, learning to be more assertive is a skill that can benefit many. So, how exactly can you do this?

Agree on the facts

Those who are less assertive often get taken advantage of by others, especially in the workplace. They may be manipulative and say you had agreed to certain things when you had not. They may act aggressively and try and intimidate you in to delivering a piece of work that you should either not be responsible for or demand a ridiculously short timeline. There is a way to be assertive in this situation and stand up for yourself without needing to engage in a confrontation. Something many who are not assertive try to avoid. The way to do this is to start by agreeing with whatever they say that is factually true. For example, if your boss demands that you complete a report that normally takes 1 week instead to be done in 2 days. You would start by agreeing that you are responsible for the report and there may be a way to get things done faster that you have not thought of.

However, you would not then agree to complete it within 2 days. You disarm them by agreeing with them, which will make them less aggressive and then calmly explain why it typically takes a week and ask them if they know of anyway it can be done in 2 days instead of a week given the complexities. If they are unable to help you improve the way it is done, it will still need to be done in 1 week. The same would be true if someone tries to manipulate a situation and claim you were responsible. You would agree that the work needs to be done, and then ask for evidence on where it was decided you were responsible for it. Your understanding is that you were not, but if they can provide evidence you will happily apologise and get on it immediately. This is a technique known as “fogging” and helps you to stay neutral, factual, and non-confrontational while not agreeing to anything.

Repeat yourself

The other way to ensure that you can be assertive without needing to be confrontational or aggressive is to remain calm but combine it with persistence. This would require you to simply make the same inquiry over and over again. Imagine that you would like a promotion. Simply asking, when can we discuss what I need to achieve in order to get promoted to xxx is a simple enough statement. But the trick is, to not let it go. Your boss or HR may make excuses, it is not the performance cycle, we need to wait until next quarter etc. These answers do not give you any clarity. So, you would simply acknowledge their response and repeat the question. So, you would say something like, I understand it is not the performance review cycle at the moment, so when can we discuss what I need to do in order to get promoted to xxx. I understand that we need to wait until next quarter so when specifically, can we discuss what I need to achieve in order to get promoted to xxx. This is often regarded as the “stuck record” technique and again is a way to calmly get to the desired outcome, without needing to get into a big argument.

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