How to be assertive at work & why

How to be assertive at work & why
12 Mar

finding the assertive in you.

Many job seekers describe themselves as assertive. All believe it’s a strength, few can explain why. Did you know your communication style is a learnt behaviour and thus its possible to learn a new style and change the way others perceive you.

What is being assertive so highly regards as compared to being aggressive. Before we begin lets start with some definitions.

Communication Styles

Communication can be broadly grouped into 3 areas. If we want to alter our communication style first of all we must define communication styles and identify where we sit before we can make any changes.

Passive communication

I don’t count

Definition : unable to express honest feelings or apologetic when doing so. Easily disregarded by colleagues and friends.

Chararachteristics : apologetic and whining. Long rambling sentences. Tends to giggle when expressing anger and rarely makes eye contact. Least prone to show initiative for fear of failure.

Aggressive communication

I’m out for number 1.

Definition Attack when feeling threatened. Maintains superiority by putting others down.

Characteristics : Sarcastic condescending tones. Stares other people down, scowls, crossed arms.

Assertive communication

You wont take advantage of me, nor will I attack you for what you do, it’s about mutual respect.

Definition : consistently communicates in an open and honest manner without violating the rights of others. Constructive without blame.

Characteristics : fluent relaxed tones. In the now. Sincere. Direct eye contact without staring.

Being assertive means always operating from a position of equality and respect. Without a personal agenda you are more likely to present, sincere and genuine. Learn more about other benefits here.


  1. The more you stand up for yourself and act in a manner you respect, the higher your self esteem.
  2. Your chances of getting what you want out of life improve.
  3. Expressing yourself directly at the time means that resentment doesn’t build up.
  4. More objective with your views on others and thus greater ability to understand others.

How to Change

Review the day’s interactions on the commute home, this is especially relevant in understanding how your communication plays out now and the effect it has.

  • You may begin to recognise conversations where yo’ve been taken advantage of or equally been outspoken or aggressive. Take note of your emotions, language, body language & tone of voice.
  • As a pop psychologist it seems reasonable to me if assertive communication can be taught then our current style must also have been learned. Sitting quietly, curiously trying to understand that emotion may help wind back the years of reinforcement and allow for the beginning of a change in behaviours.
  • To achieve best results work with a professional coach who will help facilitate the change. Learn more here.

Figure out appropriate ways of asserting yourself in each specific situation that concerns you.

  • Watch how other people react to a similar situation, were they passive, aggressive or assertive. Is there anything you can take from the observations.

Listen actively.

  • Try to understand the other person’s point of view which means hearing them out to the end.

Finally start by putting it into practice today. Start small and with work it will take on its own momentum.

Start with easier, less stressful situations. Look for ways of sharpening your assertiveness skills. Examples: Ask

  • a friend to lend you something.
  • a stranger for directions.
  • for a discount on your next big purchase. Practice your small talk, praise others for things done well.


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Craig Michilis

Craig Michilis

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