‘Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.’ That’s what Mr. John F. Kennedy once said and I believe he’s completely right. It definitely applies to your work life, too. If you say, or even so much as seem to be ok with less than you actually want, that’s all you’re going to get. So how do you get what you want, without driving everyone away from you? Assertiveness is the answer.
‘Expressing opinions or desires strongly and with confidence, so that people take notice.’ That’s what the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary states when you look up ‘assertiveness’. Other dictionaries add to that, that it’s without being aggressive or making threats. It’s simply stating what you want in a polite but clear manner. However, for many people and especially – dare I say it – women, it’s a difficult thing. Fortunately, you can practice and learn. Here are some tips.
SPECIALISE IN WHAT YOU LIKE DOING
First of all, make sure you specialise in what you really enjoy doing. Chances are that this aligns with what you’re good at. When you’re good at what you do, people will question you less and besides, it will make you feel confident and therefore being assertive will be easier.
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE
This is an important one to realise: you don’t have to be friends with everyone. This definitely holds in the work environment. Of course it’s nice when your client thinks you’re such a friendly person, but it’s more important he’s impressed with your results. So it’s ok to tell him he’s asking for much more than you initially agreed on and it’s ok to tell him his intended strategy will not lead to his desired results. He might not like hearing it, but that’s ok. If you do it in a polite way, this won’t be something he will let you go for.
Make sure you know how to take initiative. When you’re brainstorming with a client about a problem and you don’t step up, you’ll likely end up with his way of handling the situation. If you’re the following type, that’s no problem and you’ll just follow orders, but that’s probably not what you want. After all, you started freelancing because you’re not that type, right? So instead of waiting for him to come up with a strategy, make sure you have your own ideas. ‘I’d like to suggest that we…’ is a good way to start and, because you’re good at what you do, the client will be happy to go your way.
‘NO’ IS AN ANSWER, TOO
When our answer to a question is ‘no’, we tend to feel obligated to give a whole list of excuses. This is absolutely not necessary, definitely not so when you’re independent. “No, I can’t right now’ is a perfectly acceptable answer. People who are used to getting their way will probably respond with ‘why not?’ but really, that’s none of their business. Because when you do start giving excuses, they will refute them and try to convince you after all. If you fall for this, you’re back at square one, but if you can say ‘no’ twice or three times, then they will stop questioning you. Remember, you don’t have to be friends with everyone!
KNOW WHEN TO MAKE A FUSS
Don’t get me wrong, you definitely do not want to be that drama queen. So just don’t do drama. However, when something is really important to you and you are strongly convinced about the subject, it’s ok to stand your ground. This only works when you’re not known as a drama queen, because if that’s the case, you will never be taken seriously. Pick your battles. Go with the flow when you’re fine either way, but don’t be afraid to step up and speak your mind when it truly matters.
ALL IN MODERATION
Let me stress once more: assertiveness is not about being aggressive or even being unfriendly. It’s not about refusing everything or never going the extra mile for someone. You can be considered a friendly and helpful person while stil being assertive. Practice, and don’t overdo it. When nobody asks you for help anymore, or worse, when they barely talk to you, then you know you went way too far. You don’t want to reach that point!
Want to learn more about assertiveness? Start by looking at YouTube videos or take a course at Udemy. There are also many books written on the issue.
Do you need to be more assertive? What are your best tips? Share it in the comments below or on the social networks.