Many of us struggle to find our voices, even at times when we know that we should speak up. Being assertive is linked to your self-confidence, and not doing it could be holding you back both in your personal and your professional life. Follow these steps below to become more assertive and stand your ground.
1. Write down your thoughts
If you are feeling that you need to stand up for yourself, write down what you are thinking. Plan out how you can tell someone what you think. Even if it’s not for a specific conversation, write down what you need to say and how you can phrase it. This exercise is not intended to be read by someone else but rather to help you practice what to say. It could help with your confidence the next time an opportunity to say something comes up.
2. Choose words carefully
Start training yourself to not say certain words that will interrupt you and make you sound (and feel) less assertive. These include um, like, you know, ah, and so on. It’s much better to take a pause, take a breath, and think about what you want to say. Silence is powerful, and can be a better tool for assertiveness than filling that silence with meaningless noise. Practicing this will also make you feel better able to talk without using these words as time goes on.
“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” – Pearl Strachan Hurd
3. Positively reinforce
When you do stand your ground or speak out, especially if you normally wouldn’t, be sure to reward yourself. Tell yourself about what a great job you have done, or give yourself a treat. Allow yourself a small celebration, even if it is only inside your own head. No matter what the outcome was, reinforce the behaviour in yourself by feeling positive about it.
4. Stand up at home
If you are not assertive in any area of your life, then standing up to your friends and family could be the easiest first step. This will help you to feel more confident before you increase your levels of assertiveness at work. It’s easier to stand up to people we know and like, because they will forgive us even if they think we have spoken out of turn. With more self-confidence, you can tackle the office head-on too.
5. Follow your own rules
If speaking up isn’t possible, think about ways that you can be more assertive through your actions. If you have a colleague that is always trying to involve you in other projects rather than your own work, consider setting a rule that you will only help them when you have finished your daily tasks. If you find that your work runs over into your lunch hour and leaves you with no break, get up from your chair and go for a walk where work can’t find you.
“Make your own rules or be a slave to another man’s.” – William Blake
6. Use body language
Having a slumped posture indicates defeat before you even consider raising your hand. Use body language to convey authority and your voice will be better heard. Straighten your shoulders, stop crossing your arms, keep your head straight, and keep your chin up high. Look people in the eye when you speak to them if you can, and you will find that your words feel stronger when they come from a stronger position.
The most important thing about becoming more assertive is to try. If you never go for step one, you will always struggle to be assertive, and you will never help yourself. Get a backbone and a voice for your own sake – with these steps it comes easier than you might think!