Assertive Communication Series Article 2: Assertive Communication – What You Say
Assertive communication is imperative for women to master if they want to have success in their careers. The words that we use to communicate have a huge impact on our assertive communication. Here are some tips on how to use assertive language in the workplace.
Use “I” statements. The goal of assertive communication is to speak up, stay true to your feelings, and state your opinions clearly without blaming others. The best way to do this is to practice using “I” statements. These are statements where you state your opinion by starting with “I”. Meaning you are putting the focus on you and what you want, not what someone else wants.
For example, lets say you are at a meeting where a decision is being made between funding two different projects. You are sitting at the table and you have an opinion. You speak up (even if you have to interrupt) and say “I believe we should fund project x because of y.” In this sentence you are explaining your opinion in a clear and direct manner while keeping the focus on what you believe. You could have said, “I think Bill is wrong. We should choose project x.” This second statement is much more threatening and puts the focus on Bill and the negative.
Being assertive is about standing up for your opinions but in a tactful and thoughtful way. Focusing on “I” statements will help keep the focus on you.
Use the word “No” freely. Another assertive word that should be a part of your vocabulary is the word “no”. Women can often tend to be people pleasers, and therefore overcommit themselves and then under deliver, or drive yourself crazy by delivering, but at the expense of your sleep, family, etc. We need to practice saying no in an assertive way. This shows that you have clear focus on your goals and priorities. Derek Sivers has a great 1-minute video where he describes what to say yes to. He says if the answer isn’t a Hell-Yeah!, then it should be a no. In the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown he talks about how decision-making in our lives needs to be really clear. We are often burdened by all of these non-essential activities that we “should” be doing, rather than doing what is most important. Find out what your priorities are, then focus on saying no to the things that are not essential. And you DO have to practice this one. I have been saying no to things for a couple years now and it is still hard for me. But people will respect you for saying no rather than under delivering. Practice this one today!
Keep your communication professional. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like we work in a professional environment when we are on a manufacturing floor or surrounded by men. But, I believe it is imperative that we keep our communication professional. To me, this means to speak about work, not overindulge on discussions of your personal life or others. It also means keeping the language clear of profanities. If the words you utter are professional and you hold your standard to such, those around you will take hold of the same standard. I’ve experienced this countless times. Know what you stand for and use the appropriate words to convey that.
What do you struggle with on assertive communication?