Even the calmest and most collected person in the world still has moments of feeling affronted. If the affront comes from an authority figure at work, that slight can feel all the more insulting. Assertive communication in the workplace is absolutely crucial, but it’s something that many people never learned to do properly. Effective communication is a key to assertiveness. Read on for our favorite tips on assertive behavior in the workplace.

What is Effective Communication?

To demonstrate effective communication, let’s use a familiar example. Let’s imagine that your roommate/significant other has forgotten to pay the electric bill – again. You could easily explode, and yell something like “You always forget! What’s wrong with you? I’m taking over the bills from now on.”

This is likely to provoke either more anger on their part, or extremely submissive (I’m sorry!) behavior. Neither is part of effective communication.

To communicate effectively in this situation, you could follow an easy three-step plan. State the issue: “This is the 4th time you’ve forgotten to pay this particular bill.” Next, explain how that makes you feel. “I feel sometimes like you’re careless with bills, knowing that I’ll pick up the slack.” Last, suggest a concrete resolution. “How would you feel about swapping chores? I’ll pay the bills each month and you mow the lawn. How does that sound?”

Notice that none of this language is inflammatory, accusatory or negative. Your partner may respond in an angry manner, but that is a reflection of their own frustrations over forgetting or anger at being called on it. Neither is a reflection on you.


Translating Effective Communication to the Workplace

Assertive communication in the workplace can be tricky, but it’s essential in creating a positive environment for everybody, from CEOs to entry-level workers.

To practice effective communication at work, start small. Pick an issue which bothers you and other colleagues, but hasn’t been addressed. Ideally, this is a very small issue – baby steps! Stand up to the person responsible, state your issue and offer solutions. Be prepared for anger, but since you’ve picked a small issue, that’s unlikely. The issue will most likely be resolved, at least partially, and your self-confidence will get a huge boost!

Cultivate an Assertive Mentality

This is the longest part of effective communication, but also one of the most important. It’s not good enough to be assertive once in a while. It’s a life-long journey of discerning which issues are worth bringing up and which can be allowed to slide. Remember that assertiveness is not aggressiveness – aggression is precisely what effective communication should help avoid!

To help you cultivate this mentality, practice being assertive in your life outside of work. Speak up if you feel you’ve been wronged. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel, and the easier it will be to speak up at work.

It should be noted that if you’re readying to speak up about something truly huge at the workplace, practice pays off. If at all possible, role-play with a friend, colleague or loved one about the precise topic, and ask your partner to volley back all the potential reactions they can think of. This will help you feel calmer as you step into the boss’s office, and up your chances of a satisfactory resolution.


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