On a recent cold and windy evening I needed a quick dinner at about 9:00 pm after my training. Something tasty and healthy but filling and quick to prepare so I settled on a hearty soup: leek and potato with a warm crusty roll. The soup arrived scalding hot so I tucked into the roll. Rock hard and stale. The soup tasted of wet dust and had never been introduced to a leek or a potato. I returned it calmly saying that my colleague’s food was great but asking if I could I have a replacement salad.
This was a simple example of assertively handling the issue of unacceptable food but when the communication touches on the more personal with friends and colleagues such as lack of integrity, lazy work habits; lax deadlines, bullying tactics and all the other workplace issues, most women want to be firm but not branded with the “B” word and want to be heard but not forceful.
As women, good communication skills are vital to establish ourselves in the workplace, in partnerships and in families as well as in other aspects of our life. Most of the time, assertive communication is the best way to set our place in a work environment and be respected by our peers.
Assertive communication has two main aspects: honesty and openness. It is not judgmental, aggressive, strident, emotional or underhand. We are allowed to have a point of view and we are allowed to express it. However, our responsibility is always to manage the way it is delivered and the way it is heard by others. Watch for stony facial expressions or retreating body language. Listen for the defensive rebuttle. Make instant adjustments as you go along. Be polite, respectful and balanced and you will be considered fair-minded. Assertive communication requires self-confidence, born of a keen listening ear and an open attitude to another’s point of view.
With the reputation of being emotional, women would be wise to avoid offloading their fierce emotion and innermost thoughts all over some unfortunate listener. Do not be afraid to tell others how you feel. People appreciate people who can clearly state their emotions, without placing the blame on others. Stating your opinions clearly, offering mainly the facts and leaving out the exaggeration, hyperbole and rambling narrative are useful techniques to become an assertive communicator.
When practicing assertive communication, it helps to visualize the person you want to be and then be that person. Speak as that person would. Did someone pay you a compliment on a job well done? Accept the compliment with grace with a simple “thank you.” It is important to take credit if it is due to you, without taking too much.
Bring out your inner assertive woman only when the time is right. Studies have shown that women who are assertive and confident but who can also turn these traits off when the times calls, are most likely to be promoted in a job and respected, especially by their male colleagues in the workplace.