The two secrets to being assertive

Whether you’re helping someone improve their work performance, counselling an employee who smells of cigarettes or because of poor personal hygiene, or owning up to missing a deadline or making a mistake, you need to be assertive about it. It’s hard to imagine an effective leader-manager who isn’t assertive.

Yes, you need to use ‘I’ language so that your messages aren’t ‘pushy’. Yes, techniques like ‘broken record’ and ‘fogging’ are terrific when used well. But more, far more, than ‘I’ language or techniques, assertiveness is a mindset. And I think there are two secrets to an assertive mindset.

The first is the intention to make the other person feel good about themselves while still putting your own point of view across. When you do that, you make your point without making an enemy, and your message is far more likely to be heard and acted on.

The second is the intention to treat others with respect, which lies at the core of assertiveness. People bang on about their rights but we don’t often hear people talking about their responsibilities. Yes, we have a right to be treated with respect, to express our feelings and opinions and be listened to and taken seriously. Equally important, we have a responsibility to treat others and listen to their views with respect, to respect the wishes of others, to not force our ideas down someone else’s throat.

Understanding our responsibilities to others prevents us from crossing the line from assertiveness into aggression. Aggression may get us our own way in the short term, but every time we’re aggressive and pushy, rather than assertive, in order to get what we want, we do another degree of damage to the other person’s good will towards us and before you know it, your good working relationships have joined the dodo.