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Many clamoring for success in the competitive world- where resources are scarce and chased by too many- wish they could be more self-assured, self-confident and well, simply more assertive. Typical statements one hears include:

  • “I wish I had voiced my idea earlier. Some one else has got the credit”.
  • “I could have done a better job but I let it pass”
  • ” I am helping so many others my work doesn’t get completed”
  • “I want to say “No” but don’t know how”.

Assertiveness is defined as aggressive self-assurance and the ability to make bold assertions. Impressions of you are created- not by what you think, but by what you say and what you do. This includes other’s perception of how assertive or not you are in their eyes.

Here’s my take on 7 Types of Assertive Statements with brief descriptions of what they mean and how to make them:

  1. Authority: Making clear that you are taking responsibility for your actions. Clarifying that you are taking the decision. Example: ” I want you to finish this assignment by 6.00 p.m. today” or ” Just go ahead and do as I tell you, I shall be responsible for any consequences”.
  2. Empathy: Here you express your understanding of the other’s feelings yet maintain your position and needs: Example: ” I can see that you are pressed for time just now, but this has to be done by close of the work day today.” or ” I understand this must be tough for you as you are doing it for the first time but this is the best way to learn and I want you to give it your best try”.
  3. Consequences: We speak of the consequences of what would happen if they continue with the same behavior. Example: ” We have been through this several times now. If you don’t develop skills in delegating your work, I may have to promote someone else who can do it better” or ” This is the third time you couldn’t meet the client’s delivery as scheduled. I want no more slip ups in the agreed schedule otherwise I will move this responsibility to someone else in the team”.
  4. Questioning: Asking questions to understand all that it involved so as to determine how it fits in with our priorities. Example: ” How much time do you think I would need to give for this?” or ” What makes you think 70 % of the task is completed?”
  5. Discrepancy: Establishing gaps in what was earlier agreed upon. Example: ” I heard you tell me that the program was fully on track. How come we have this delay now?” or ” We had agreed that you would assign this task to Bob. Why are you still dealing with it yourself?”
  6. Feelings: Expressing how you feel because of an action taken by the other person. Also mentioning preferred alternate behaviour. Example: ” I lose concentration when you keep interrupting like this. Give me half an hour to finish what I am doing and we can talk after that” or ” I cannot focus on my work if you keep asking me these questions. Please put them all together and we can spend some time in the evening resolving your doubts”.
  7. Priorities: Clear statements indicating how it sits on your list of priorities. Example: ” I am occupied right till 6.00 p.m. today. Do you want to meet after 6.30 p.m.?” or ” It may be important for you but I am working on a top priority task just now. Can we talk about this after 5.00 p.m.?”

Like any other skill, assertiveness can be developed with practice. The above are merely examples. Be yourself and use what best suits you- but learn to bat for yourself and you will find the workplace less hassled than it may now seem to you if you lack assertiveness.

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This is Post No: 312 of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.