We all secretely envy people who demonstrate a quietly confident, assured personality. This kind of people seem to mean what they say and say what they mean. They are relaxed yet project an aura of gravitas; they impact others positively and tend to get the best out of everyone around them. They do not hide their needs and do not prevaricate. They also do not impose their needs on others but they remain open to negotiate. In short, they are assertive.
Yet, assertiveness is a poorly understood and rarely well practiced skill. Many mistake assertiveness with aggressiveness and either shy away from it or go to the opposite end of the spectrum, causing resentment, unhappiness and conflict.
Assertiveness is first and foremost a POSITIVE trait. It can only exist and thrive at the presence of mutual respect and ultimately a win-win. An assertive person never undermines another through words, actions or behaviours. On the contrary, an assertive person VALUES the opinion, needs and ideas of others and - whether in agreement or disagreement - always welcomes discussion.
Here are 3 reasons why being assertive can help you build better relationships at work (and more generally in life) and achieve greater professional success:
#1 Avoid misunderstanding
Assertive people are not afraid of telling things as they see them. They explain what they need and how they feel in simple, straightforward language. This means that they are self aware and have no problems in explaining with clarity what their requirements are. By doing so they avoid creating uncertainty and the misunderstandings that may follow suit. With assertive people you know where you stand and that can only be a good thing!
#2 Encourage dialogue
Assertive people give other people their time. They do not say ' I matter and you do not' or 'My idea is the best one and only one'. They explain their needs and their feelings, then they expect others to do the same and listen to understand the other's point of view. The negotiation starts when the needs do not align and finishes only when a mutually beneficial outcome is identified, all along maintaining a respectful behaviour.
#3 Empower others
Because assertiveness is based on dialogue and respect, assertive people never look down on others or treat them as 'inferiors'. Aggressive people may undermine you through negative and abusive language and/or physical dominance. Passive people may make themselves inferiors in order to elevate you, but build discontent and stress until they suddenly, and often inappropriately, release it in a way resembling a 'pressure-cooker'. Assertive people empower others by encouraging them to vocalise their needs at the right time and in the right way. By expecting others to express their preference they also help them clarify and priorities what really matters to them, raising their own self awareness. This therefore becomes a positive and developmental opportunity for all !
Whether one is naturally assertiveness or otherwise may depend on personality, culture and education. However, we can all benefit by being more assertive in our professional and personal life. What may at first be perceived as offensive or disrespectful is, on the contrary, a respectful and ethical modus operandi, leading to dialogue and eventually a suitable, negotiated outcomes.