Avoiding assertive communication is definitely not the answer. A study from Stanford Graduate School of Business shows how women who are assertive but who can include or exclude assertiveness according to social circumstances get more opportunities for promotion from both men and other women in the business world. According to the study, women need to learn how to be assertive in an acceptable way.
Unfortunately, there are situations when women are assertive in an acceptable way, but when unconscious environmental biases affect whether they are viewed as confident and competent or as invasive. That is why the balance in assertiveness is important, which is a challenge for women that is achievable. Business coach, author and motivational speaker Bonnie Marcus offers a range of tips on how to strike that balance – demonstrate competencies without overloading your interlocutors.
Weak expressions need to be reinforced to reinforce our assertiveness. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Jerry Weisman explains how words substitution can change the impact of our communication in a positive way, and how using strong words can avoid sabotaging our own efficiency. For example, instead of using terms like “I think,” “I believe,” stronger variants like “I’m sure,” “I’m convinced,” and “expect” are preferable. The choice of such expressions supports your assertiveness without giving the impression of bossing.
Sometimes women need to apologize to soften their own personality and not to be perceived as constantly bossing people. However, a constant apology can put you in a subordinate position and negatively impact your career.
Although all women have feelings, they can deny you a leadership position if you are too prone to emotional excesses. Bonnie points out that people remember your emotions, not messages, so it’s very important to find a way to, so to speak, exhale emotionally without others seeing you. You must not confuse emotion with passion, so try to deliver your messages passionately, not indulge in emotions.
Assertive communication cannot be considered successful if you have not clearly stated your goals and conclusions without unnecessary procrastination. Until you master this, Bonnie recommends practising by writing down the key messages of your communication and practising delivering those messages. This will organize your thoughts and bring out more effectively what you want to communicate.
When you look your interlocutors in the eye, you send a strong signal that you are confident and competent. Sure, that doesn’t mean you need to stare at others, but the timed eye contact rule will help keep your assertiveness from being perceived by the boss.
Start your sentences with “I” and avoid blaming others. When you use “You” at the beginning of a sentence, you may be considered aggressive. Bonnie advises using sentences like, “I’ve come to a conclusion,” that is, “I’ve concluded,” “I know yes,” and the like. While using such sentences, do not soften your statements. This is one of the features that are crucial for assertive communication.
Picture this. You present your idea at the meeting, but it goes unnoticed by others. After a while, someone else repeats your idea and encounters salvos of approval. Sounds familiar?
On such occasions, do not hesitate to elegantly take credit for your work. An example of how this can be communicated is: “Thank you for mentioning the idea I put forward earlier, I appreciate your support.” It is important to make a statement confirming ownership of the idea in a way that is not too aggressive.
No one likes the types of people who are too prone to “praise me with my mouth” behaviour. Instead of being a braggart, think of self-promotion as a skill that will help your leadership. It is your responsibility to talk about the successes of your team, not only for personal reasons but also for your team and company.
Even when you are the person who talks the most, communication is always a two-way process. Accordingly, it is important that you know the audience you are addressing to be both assertive and likeable.