In the early months of 2015 we’re trying to inspire you to perform better in a professional environment. This results in productivity, better working relations, career progression and a better sense of well-being. So far we’ve posted blogs on the importance of personal brands, being more confident at work and the benefits of postgraduate study. This week, we’re giving you tips on a difficult skill to muster: assertiveness. What is assertiveness? Assertiveness is a communication style. It is being able to express your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions in an open manner that doesn’t violate the rights of others. Often wrongly confused with aggression, assertive individuals aim to be neither passive nor aggressive in their interactions with other people. Assertiveness enables an individual to act in their own best interests, to stand up for themselves without undue anxiety, to express honest feelings comfortably and to express personal rights without denying the rights of others. Why is a lack of assertiveness a problem? Have you ever felt like you’re the pushover in the office? Does your boss consistently ask you at the last minute to come into work on the weekend? Do you say ‘yes’ every time even though you had made plans? Do you pick up the slack of fellow employees because they know you’ll say yes? If any of the above sound familiar there’s a chance you suffer from ‘nice guy syndrome’ or ‘nice girl syndrome’. These kinds of people take a passive approach to life and relationships. Instead of standing up for themselves, they let others walk all over them. They have a hard time saying no to requests – even ridiculous ones. Incredibly, they even struggle to ask for something because they’re afraid of being an inconvenience to others. Unfortunately, this can result in anxiety, resentfulness and a feeling of helplessness because their unspoken needs aren’t being met and they constantly feel like they’re being taken advantage of. How to be more assertive Welcome the uncomfortable: Don’t avoid confrontation like the plague. Address difficult conversations head on and don’t misdirect blame. Being grounded, honest and assured in how you confront an issues will lead to a lot of respect and is a true demonstration of assertiveness. Body language and tone: Being positive and confident will do you the world of good. Stand up straight, maintain good posture and look the person in the eye. Speak clearly, at a controlled pace and an audible tone. Set boundaries: Be less of a pushover and establish boundaries. Create rules and limits that can guide and direct others to what’s permissible behaviour around you. According to Dr Nick Lazaris, a performance psychologist and the author of Assertiveness Skills for Success, it’s all about saying no. “It’s an indispensable part of assertiveness… figure out what your yeses are, and then use those as a guide to set other limits,” he says. The benefits of being more assertive You’ll feel less stressed: Studies have shown that individuals who train themselves to be assertive experience less stress than individuals who don’t. Basically, you’ll feel like you’re in control because when you’re assertive, you lose the anxiety and worry that is a result of being overly pre-occupied with what others will think of your choices/requests /opinions. You’ll also learn to say no to requests that will put you under pressure and otherwise limit your resources. You’ll communicate more effectively: Being more assertive will result in an improvement in self-confidence and self-esteem, which in turn will result in confident, concise and clear communication. This will in turn gain the respect on your colleagues, which builds honest working relationships. Improved decision-making: As stated above, assertiveness results in confidence and improved working relationships. This results in improved decision-making because: Get into ‘win-win’ situations consistently: Assertive people see the value in their opponent and their positions, which results in both parties quickly finding common ground. Better problem solvers: They feel empowered to do whatever it takes to find the best solution. Like most things, learning to be more assertive in the workplace takes time and practice. By improving your assertiveness, you will act in your own interests and express honest feelings comfortably, while building confidence in the workplace, improving your decision-making and fostering strong working relationships.