What does ‘assertive’ mean?

An assertive person is someone who has or shows a confident personality. They are not afraid to say what they want or stand up for what they believe in. They are self-assured and bold.

What does ‘aggressive’ mean?

An aggressive person is someone who is inclined to behave in an actively hostile fashion. They usually resort to brash/physically violent tactics to address people, especially ones who’ve upset them or when things don’t go their way.

These 2 terms are NOT the same thing, but when you’re a woman, the two terms are confused and used as synonyms. Being confident, clear (in your communication) and controlled [i.e. the 3Cs of assertiveness] is not being hot-tempered nor aggressive.

Tips to be more Assertive in the Workplace

  1. Power pose
    A universal rule that works. Whenever you feel nervous or before you are due to give a presentation, lead a team meeting or have a difficult conversation, etc. Stand like wonder woman for a few seconds and automatically gain a confidence boost. How to do the pose: stand up straight, rolling your shoulders back. Maintain regular eye contact and a neutral facial expression.
  2. Make ‘I’ statements
    Start lots of your statements with ‘I think’, ‘I feel’, ‘I believe’ to be assertive. ‘I’ statements help you get your message across confidently and not in a rude manner. Don’t shout these statements, speak at a normal indoor volume or project if you are addressing many people. In your ‘I’ statements refrain from using trigger words that could upset others and try to make your point without being very negative.
  3. Stay calm
    When people are ruled by emotions: positive or negative, they tend to act illogically or end up speaking/acting without thinking or with disregard for the consequences. To help calm yourself, you can count to 10, think of a happy place, or breathe in and out a few times.
  4. Positive self affirmations
    Everyday, look yourself in the mirror and shower yourself with compliments and assertive statements. This will boost your confidence and enable you to stand your ground at work. Say things like ‘I can do this’, ‘I am intelligent’, ‘I am qualified and talented’, ‘I am beautiful’, ‘I am worth it’, ‘I will ace this presentation/interview/exam’, ‘I will get through this difficult hurdle’, ‘Nothing can hold me back from achieving great things’, etc. Even if you aren’t in front of a mirror, you can whisper these affirmations to yourself.
  5. Ignore ‘guilt’ for not accepting certain situations
    Have you been working hard? Putting in extra hours? Covering for your colleagues? Feel you deserve a raise, then go ask for one! Don’t feel guilty for making demands when you’ve earned them. Don’t feel guilty for setting boundaries and informing people of them to make you feel comfortable e.g. ‘stop mispronouncing my name’, ‘I don’t like when you speak to me in that tone’, ‘don’t touch my hair’, ‘I feel a deserve a pay raise/promotion for xxx reasons’, ‘stop’, etc.

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