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Effective communication is always a hot topic in the professional world.  Indeed, communication experts agree that the most productive and progressive way to communicate is through honest and transparent dialogue—which is the basis of assertive communication.

Assertive communication is defined as a communication skill that sits halfway between passivity and aggressiveness.  Sometimes, it is incorrectly confused with the latter trait as being assertive usually requires an individual to defend a position firmly and in a persistent manner.  However, assertive communication is so much more than simply expressing a viewpoint or opinion on a subject.  It is a balanced behavior that allows one to express thoughts and feelings in an open, straightforward, and correct way—respecting the beliefs of other people while defending your own.

Assertive Communication is Not Implicitly Masculine

I recently read a 2011 study that was conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Business.  This study showed that in the business world, the most successful women who display confidence, assertiveness, and aggressiveness also possessed the ability to turn these traits on and off in a controlled fashion.  Keeping in mind the social circumstances of showing these types of behavior, these women also tended to be promoted more often than men or other women.

Encouraging information, to be sure.

However, as an executive coach, I believe that honing this important skill set is still a challenge for many women.   While a woman may have no internal issues with self-confidence, using assertive communication goes against some of the traditional lessons that we have learned about always putting others and their needs first.  Ultimately, many women are worried about looking too masculine in the workplace—and it is hurting them as they are being passed over for promotions and greater opportunity.

How to be an Assertive Communicator

Here are some tips and guidelines that you can begin implementing in order to build assertive communication skills:

  • Be aware of manipulative behavior. Do not allow other people to impose their orders or wishes on you, especially if their direction goes against your principles or desires.
  • Show respect for others while communicating your viewpoint in an effective way. State your opinions clearly and practice using “I” statements.  Stay true to your feelings without implying blame or passing off responsibility.
  • Accept compliments with grace. Say thank you instead of using diminishing words.  This sounds like a simple thing, but women can sometimes feel the need to give credit to another person or discredit the compliment that was offered to them.  Avoid downplaying your role in something successful.
  • Offer your opinion at least one time during every meeting you attend. Do not sit in silence or agree with the rest of the group out of mere habit.  Speak up and contribute—make this a goal every day.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” And mean it.  If you feel that something is being inappropriately delegated to you, resist the urge to fall into the trap of taking on the work when in reality, someone else should be doing it.
  • Stop saying ‘sorry’ for something that you don’t need to be sorry for. Rather than use it to mitigate being strong, just say what you really mean.  Check out this Pantene “Sorry” commercial.
  • State your needs. You may believe that others know what you require to do a job, but this isn’t necessarily true. The best leaders and professionals are the ones who ask for what they need as they know not verbalizing this could sabotage their success in the long run.
  • Detach yourself from emotional situations. It is impossible to control the behavior of other people, but you can work on monitoring your reaction to it.
  • Look for new experiences that allow you to step outside of the box. Break free from being a conformist both in your personal and professional life.

Finally, remember to not let anyone threaten you or offend you as that only builds stress, anxiety, and discomfort.  Use your assertiveness like a shield and wield it as you develop an attitude of success.

For more information about how I can help you build assertive communication skills that are both verbal and non-verbal, visit www.JPKantor.com today.