We live in a particularly sensitive time. Whether via social media or in real life, everyone has an opinion these days, and as young professionals (YPs) it can be tricky to navigate daily life without pissing someone off. But when it comes to expressing ourselves, whether to bosses or colleagues, friends or family, it’s crucial for YPs to know how to effectively be our own ally, to right wrongs on our own behalf, and fight for causes that matter to us. That’s just where the “assertive sweet spot” comes in: the space where we can be both firm but friendly, assertive but appreciated. Whether you have trouble speaking your mind in a way that still respects others or you’re more concerned with being liked than being heard, here are 7 tips that can help us reach that allusive assertive sweet spot:
1. Take the middle path:
Being assertive essentially means being neither passive nor aggressive, but snuggled somewhere right in the middle. A level of assertiveness that gets the message across and also garners the respect that we deserve takes a certain level of confidence but also a degree of humility. So go ahead and speak up. Just keep it cool; there’s no need to shout.
2. Don’t get personal:
As Canadian YPs, we’re granted the awesome right to rant and rave freely. We are all entitled to our opinions and can preach them where and as we wish. That said, we are not permitted to express these in any way that may be harmful to others. This basic but important standard can also be used when gauging the ideal level of assertiveness. Speak as you like, but don’t get personal. Attacking another’s character, lifestyle, or values will never lead to avid listening or eager agreement. Just stick to the subject and come armed with knowledge, not insults.
3. Don’t take it personally:
Some of us are just not good at going against the grain. Certainly we have our own beliefs and perspectives, we just tend to feel uncomfortable when others don’t agree with them. To be assertive, however, requires a bit of balls, and demands that we don’t take things so personally. Though others may not concur with our ideas, it does not mean they don’t like us as people.
Being assertive isn’t all about speaking up. Learning when not to talk and, more importantly, when to genuinely listen helps build the mutual respect necessary to pave the way to the assertive sweet spot. When others know they’ve been heard they’ll be more likely to listen in return. There’s room on society’s soapbox for everyone.
5. Be diplomatic:
As the saying goes, a smile really does go a long way. When in situations requiring us to be assertive, it’s best to tread as pleasantly as possibly. Let our message be solid and our words be wise, but our tone professional and our body language open.
6. Agree to disagree:
Sure it would be nice, but obviously it’s not possible for everyone to agree with our own way of thinking. Fortunately, when it comes to being assertive, agreement isn’t always necessary. Agreeing to disagree is a wonderful way to stand our ground while keeping things amicable. In general, it’s just a super adult thing to do and helps to finally reach the last stage…
7. Move on:
Whether or not you’ve successfully made your point, changed minds, and had things go your way, the final tip to reaching the assertive sweet spot is knowing when to just squash things and move on. Even if your boss disagrees with your pleas for a promotion, or your partner insists on still doing that one thing that drives you nuts, just knowing that you took a stand, spoke strong, and did so with dignity can sometimes be enough to walk away with your assertive head held high.
Cover Image: wisegeek.com