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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Jun 30, 2023


Many people want to be more assertive at work. This week we explore assertiveness as a type of conversation.



Hello and welcome to episode 191 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to be more assertive at work.

Many people want to be more assertive at work - you might be one of them. Perhaps you feel your perspectives are overlooked, or you struggle to get your opinions across to people, or you’re frustrated that others just steamroll through and always get their way. To address these challenges, we really need to break some misconceptions about assertiveness. Assertiveness is not something you’re born with. It’s not a personality type or preference. Rather, assertiveness is a set of skills any of us can develop and improve.

A helpful way to think about assertiveness is to picture a line. At one end of the line is passive. If I’m being passive it’s 100% about them, the other person and their needs, wants and interests, and 0% about me, my needs, wants and interests. It’s okay to be passive sometimes, particularly on issues that really matter to the other person but don’t matter to you. If it’s genuinely not important to you, it’s perfectly fine and even a great idea to let the other person get what they want. However, if we’re passive about things that matter to us, then that can be a problem. At the other end of the line is aggressive. Here it’s 0% about the other person, and 100% about my needs, wants and interests. Again, sometimes it’s perfectly appropriate to put your needs and wants first. There are issues where it’s important to hold your ground. But if you’re aggressive about every issue, even ones you don’t care about, that’s likely to limit your effectiveness and relationships.

So assertiveness isn’t being passive, and it’s also not about being aggressive. Assertiveness also isn’t the midpoint on the line - it’s not 50% about them and 50% about you - that’s compromise not assertiveness.

Instead, assertiveness is a type of conversation - one where my needs, wants and interests are 100% on the table, but so are the other person’s needs, wants and interests. The best way to measure your assertiveness isn’t by seeing whether you got your way or not - that’s really more a measure of aggressiveness. Instead, you can measure your assertiveness by whether the other person understands your perspective and why it’s important to you, and also whether you understand their perspective and why it matters to them. We may then have a shared problem to work through - you can’t always get a win-win solution right away. Here are a few quick tips for more assertive conversations:

  • Be clear about needs, not just your wants. Sometimes what people present as what they want isn’t the same as what they actually need.
  • Write down your needs, interests and wants before a meeting then make sure you share these during the meeting. Preparation really helps.
  • Acknowledge where there is disagreement and your willingness to work with the other person towards a solution.

If you found this helpful, check out our Boost Your Assertiveness course.


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