A to Z of Soft Skills: A for Assertive Skills

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The first coaching client I took on wanted to improve on her assertive skills, among other things. During our discovery session – where we discussed what she wanted to accomplish through coaching – she told me that she wanted to be more assertive with her 10 year old. Especially stop him from taking her phone and playing games endlessly on it. Another coaching client I worked with was looking forward to managing a team soon and wanted to work on delegation. She felt odd telling people what to do and found it comfortable to do just do it herself. But that wouldn’t help when she’d become the project lead.

As you can see, be it personal life or professional, assertive skills can make a huge difference to one’s life. In fact, assertive skills is one of my favourite areas of soft skills and I am glad that the first post of this challenge is about it.

So, what is assertive skill?

It is the ability to get your point across without using aggression. It is about standing up for your own rights without violating someone else’s. Assertiveness is the balance between the extremes of being passive and aggressive.

Passive behaviour is accepting whatever is told even if you don’t agree. It shows low self esteem and weak interpersonal skills. It means that you don’t respect yourself enough to consider your point of view worth putting forth.

Aggressive, on the other hand, is coming on too strongly thereby trampling on the others’ space. It could also be a sign of low self esteem but no respect for others.

Assertive thereby is a win-win behaviour where you respect yourself and others.

Why are assertive skills important?

Assertive skills are important:

– To put forth your point of view before the resentment builds in

– Effectively delegate tasks to your team and ensure that they are done

– To express negative emotions like refusal, complaints, disagreement or criticism

– To sort out any irritations within the organization or the team

– To assert your rights and claim your space

How to become more assertive?

Believe in your self worth: Self esteem is the number one requirement for being assertive. Someone might make demands of you but you have all the right to refuse if it doesn’t appeal to you. How you do it is the stuff that assertive skills are made of. (And something we will learn in this post)

Acknowledge others’ demands: Remember that being assertive is a two way street. You want respect and you also give it to others. Don’t dismiss something someone says as worthless. Accept that their ideas are valid. In fact, begin your response with phrases like, “I see your point… or “I agree that this is a serious issue….or “I understand that you have a lot on your plate at the moment….

Ask Questions: Someone might ask you to do something but before you refuse, asking a few questions might help. For instance, Is it urgent?Are you the only person who can do it? This works best when you need to say no to someone’s request. You might find a better time when you can actually fulfill the request or re-direct to a person who is more suited. This saves you from refusal and doesn’t affect your relationship with the one who asked for the favour.

Don’t explain too much: This can kill your assertiveness. Long explanations sound like excuses and you aren’t making any. So be direct in your response.

Use the right tone and body language: The way you say it is very important. If you feel confident, your body language will also convey that. Always make eye contact. The tone needs to be just right. Don’t be apologetic (passive) or gruff (aggressive). Use “I” sentences – like I mentioned in the examples in point 2 – and not “you” sentences. Using “You” sounds like you are blaming someone.

Practice: This is the most important step. Practice with friends. Work on your expressions and tone to get it right. Move on to team mates and colleagues gradually. Believe that it is ok to refuse or disagree with people as long as you do it right.

Want more tips? I wrote this post on assertive skills on Linkedin – A quick and simple guide to assertive skills

I’s also recommend that you watch this wonderful video by Wellcast on the same topic. It puts together all the points discussed in this post very well! 

Assertive skills is key in assuming leadership roles and moving up the career ladder. It is equally important to feel confident and build strong relationships in life. So what are you waiting for? Work on these tips and start practicing!

A to Z – Day 1

If you liked this post, share online and tell people about the amazing posts that are going to come up this month!


4 thoughts on “A to Z of Soft Skills: A for Assertive Skills

  1. Don’t explain too much: This can kill your assertiveness. Long explanations sound like excuses and you aren’t making any. So be direct in your response. – this is me!!!

    thank you for this very useful post 🙂


    • Hey! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! To be assertive – practice is the key, if you ask me. One of the tasks I set for my coaching clients is to find situations where they are going to use assertive responses where they wouldn’t otherwise. That’s great practice. 🙂


  2. I have come across in my private practice that when people are assertive they enjoy better well being both physical and psychological.Most of the time it is the imagined fear that prevent one to be himself.


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