Thursday, October 14, 2010

Speaking Assertively at work

If you deal with daily meetings and interactions with coworkers, you know just how important it is to speak assertively. But what exactly does “assertively” mean and how do you speak your mind without coming across as rude? These are important questions, as communicating effectively — not to mention politely — is pivotal to your professional success. The last thing you want to do is alienate coworkers (or clients!) with in-your-face boldness. As Don Draper once said,

“…Keep it up, and even if you do get my job, you’ll never run this place. You’ll die in that corner office, a mid-level executive with a little bit of hair who women go home with out of pity. Want to know why? Cause no one will like you.”

And Draper’s advice is spot on; no one responds well to a bossy coworker and being rude is definitely not the way to win a promotion or in-office respect. Remember when asserting yourself or your ideas, your main goal should be to gain and give respect. How? We suggest focusing on confidence instead of assertiveness. You’ll find that a confidently presented idea or viewpoint will get you far and will garner you more respect in the long run.

Show Confidence

The best solutions come out of problems. A healthy discussion and even a disagreement can be very beneficial, especially in the work space. It means both sides are passionate and want the best for the company. But in order to communicate effectively you must show confidence in yourself and your ideas. Confirm this confidence by facing coworkers when speaking. Remember that while it’s perfectly fine to refer to notes, the majority of a conversation or presentation should be spent making eye contact – both when you are speaking and (even more importantly) while you’re listening.

Exhibit Leadership Qualities

Part of speaking in an assertive manner is demonstrating leadership skills. When you are assertive in a conversation, you are leading that conversation. But don’t use this as a time to be condensing. Steer clear of using big words in an effort to deliberately impress people and try to avoid making coworkers feel defensive. Think about your approach, delivery, and what you want as a result of your conversation.

Be Specific and Clear

Part of speaking to people is, well, speaking to people. To avoid miscommunication, speak clearly and stay on topic. If you are curious or need clarification about something, just ask. If you are feeling frustrated by a coworker’s solution or point-of-view, for the interest of a win-win situation, try to look at the big picture and, if you must, excuse yourself from the conversation altogether. The quickest way to lose respect in the office is to let your emotions take over your professionalism. Being kind and courteous should always win out over your efforts to be right.

Say Exactly What You Mean

No one likes to listen to someone drone on. Often, the more you say, the less is heard. Keep things specific, use facts, and be conversational — not confrontational.

Listen — REALLY Listen

When you’re talking, show coworkers that you hear them and that you understand. Most times, people just want to be heard. Prefacing your comments with a rephrasing of their last statement will both put them at ease and make them more open to listening and understanding your stance and possible solution.

Don’t Feel Guilty for Being Assertive

It’s more than okay to stand up for yourself, your ideas and opinions. Being assertive is in fact very important when communicating with others, not to mention coworkers. Practice, assess the situation, and use confidence to emphasize rather than provoke. Remember, in the end, it’s respect you seek.

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