Being able to stand your ground, get your point across, and yet not been seen as aggressive, is such an important communication skill in any workplace. It ensures that you are respected, well-liked and taken seriously at the same time. But most people struggle to find that balance. Very often when a passive person tries to becomes assertive, they tend to overdo it and come across as aggressive instead. So what are the simple tricks to come across more assertive without being disrespectful?

1) Don’t assign blame to them, instead, tell them how you or the team feels

When people feel like someone else has overstepped their boundaries, it’s easy to feel that you need to attack them in order to defend yourself. As an example, if someone keeps coming in late for meetings, wasting everyone’s time, assigning blame to them would be say “We always waste time waiting during meetings because YOU keep coming in late”, you could try saying “I feel everyone here wastes a lot of time whenever someone comes in late, so I hope we can all be punctual in future, and respect each others time”.

2) Use silence as a tool to get your point across

Silence makes most people awkward during serious conversations. And it’s so powerful if you learn how to use it properly. Avoid trying to fill in silent gaps by talking. Instead, just before you make your point, or when they say something that you do not agree with, be silent and hold eye contact for a brief period. Then respond with an assertive comment. When you do this, it amplifies your message, and they know you mean business.

3) Modulate your voice

Speak in lower pitch, and at a slower pace than you normally would. In group situations, the “alpha” is the one that is calmest, most relaxed, and breathes the slowest among everyone else in the group. Speak clearly and confidently, at a pace where you expect them to wait until you finish your sentence. If they interrupt you, repeat yourself by starting the sentence with “As I was saying…”, or simply just repeating your point in a different way.

What not to do

When you are someone that is generally quite passive, switching to an assertive form of communication may need some practice. What you definitely want to avoid doing is to feel defensive when you get challenged, raise your voice, or show that you are emotionally affected by the conversation. Shouting and being angry should not be confused with being assertive, and generally will make you appear weak.



Posted by Derek Toh

Derek is the founder and CEO of WOBB.CO. He was part of the pioneer batch for the Stanford-MaGIC Entrepreneurship Program, and is also a mentor for McKinsey & Company's Youth Leadership Academy. Derek is on a mission to revolutionise work culture in Asia. He cares about initiatives that improve education and the talent market. Derek is also a big fan of superhero movies, and has been told that he drinks too much coffee during the day.