By Jill Johnson
Those who achieve success make things happen and have developed the ability to be assertive. If your secret desire is a promotion or more money, being assertive can be the key to making your dream a reality.
Not being assertive can doom you to continually being passed over. Wishing for recognition is no longer enough; you have to take real action to be noticed.
Six Signs You Need an Assertiveness Fix
1. Do you struggle to get your point across or constantly have to explain yourself? If people take away the wrong message from your verbal communication, then you are not being clear. You are presenting your ideas in a disjointed manner and a jumble of meaningless words. People tune you out and only hear part of what you say. You are talking out loud trying to figure out what your point actually is. You assert yourself on the wrong points and exhaust your listeners as they wait for you to get to a point that matters.
2. Do coworkers interrupt you in midsentence or talk right over you? Constantly being interrupted indicates people do not respect you. Worse yet, the ideas you are presenting might actually be poor ones, demonstrating you really do not understand the crucial issues needing resolution. Coworkers may be so frustrated with your lack of insight that they interrupt you in order to keep the focus on the critical issues and keep the discussion moving constructively forward.
3. Do people take advantage of you for saying “yes” to everything? It is one thing to accept new assignments because of an opportunity to learn new skills. It is a whole other thing to give up your nights and weekends because you cannot say no. By trying to please everyone, you make it easy for others to take advantage of you.
4. Do your peers or upper management say you are “too quiet”? A comment like this is a neon sign demanding that you start speaking up. When they finally tell you this, you are already identified as not being a power-player. If you do not comment on the critical issues, they will wonder what value you really do have. Hanging back and hoping someone will notice the good job you do just ensures you will be overlooked.
5. Do your subordinates ignore your lead? If you are leading and no one is following you, it will be impossible to get strong efforts or results out of your staff. Morale will be low and team performance will suffer because you are not really leading a team. Productivity will stall and you will be at risk for receiving a low performance review because you are not managing your people effectively.
6. Do you feel angry about the direction a situation went because you could not influence the outcome? Are you really upset because you did not get your way? Or are you frustrated because your emotions are focused on things you cannot control, rather than the things you can? Nonassertive people waste their emotional energy complaining and feeling helpless. They grumble about a situation to everyone except the people who can resolve it.
Four Ways to Boost Your Assertiveness
If you are not achieving the success you desire, it is time to take a step back and assess whether you are assertive enough. When your desires include promotions or more money, being assertive can make those dreams a reality. You can implement the following four key actions to immediately boost your assertiveness and take control of your destiny.
1. Watch your body language. Body language dominates the spoken word and can help you express yourself in a more assertive manner. Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more assertive. You need to make and maintain eye contact rather than looking away when you talk. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak conveys an air of confidence. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully.
2. Speak up. Do not just wish for things to happen. Ask for what you want. Tell people what you are interested in. Send e-mails to more than one person in your group or copy your boss on key items to ensure others cannot take credit for your ideas. Communicate in person if the matter is important or controversial. Focus your energy on bringing forward good ideas rather than complaining about decisions that have already been made.
3. Be prepared. Do your homework before you go into a meeting. The discipline of preparing ahead of time will make you more confident because your thoughts, opinions, and ideas will be organized. Making an outline and rehearsing will help you get to the point more powerfully in the meeting. Be sure you have all the data and information you need to support your opinions so you will respond better to people who dismiss or challenge your ideas. People will be less likely to interrupt if you are in the middle of making a valuable comment.
4. Practice. Assertiveness is a skill like any other—you have to practice it over and over before it becomes something you can do with ease. Volunteer for assignments so you can get in front of more people to augment your experience. Practice being assertive inside and outside of work. As you gain confidence and learn to express yourself more clearly, you will be more comfortable speaking up when it really counts and your ideas will likely be more accepted.
If you want your voice to be heard and your opinions to matter, you need to do everything possible to implement these practical strategies so you stop fading into the background. Taking responsibility for your future can provide you with a real shot at meaningful career success.
Don’t waste any more time. Step out of the crowd! What is the first step you will implement to be more assertive?
— Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, and an award-winning management consultant. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.