How to Be More Assertive (But Not Too Much So!)

One of my favorite young professionals who is a rising star at her company, had her latest review on Friday.  Overall she got positive marks with one challenge from her boss….be more assertive.

Okay great, but what does that really mean?  Most women I know worry about coming across TOO assertive.

I shared a message with our church on Sunday, that evidently held some advice my friend is taking to heart relative to her boss’ challenge. My encouragement was, “Engage and Ask Questions.”

So few people understand the art of inquisition and how important it makes the other person feel.  Don’t you just love it when someone asks you questions first, versus telling you what they think? 

I learned this through many tears and trials professionally.  Working with a lot of men was another good educator.  Every woman knows that glazed over look a man gets when he’s tuning you out. 

The most natural reaction is to talk louder or with greater force. Rarely does this achieve the desired end, and neither does shedding tears. (Boy have I had my share of those awkward moments at work with men!)

Simply put, every good sales professional knows the person asking the questions is the one in control, and control is one means to becoming more assertive.

Asking questions makes you appear intelligent and confident.  It conveys a sense of composure saying in essence, “I’m secure and assertive enough to learn from your perspectives first.

It also provides the chance to read the other person’s style and expectations, then  adapt yours to theirs, leaving a great impression.  Leaving a strong impression is part of asserting yourself into their memory, an essential promotion tool.

Some might call all this manipulation. I call it serving, adapting to others on the road to getting what you need.

This masterful art of becoming assertive is one you test and try, experimenting with a style that feels natural, but one that pushes you beyond the comfort zone to new places of confidence.

As you experiment ask your most trusted friends and advisers how you’re doing and whether or not your efforts are coming across the way you intend. Don’t worry if you make some blunders, at least you’re in the game and growing.

I often quote Helen Keller, here’s another good one that relates:

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”

So keep asking and engaging, knowing over time your confidence and assertiveness will grow, positioning you effectively on the road to living your dreams.