Tag Archives: assertiveness

ASSERTIVE LANGUAGE

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There are some conflicting views about whether women should minimize the use of weak language; word such as ‘just’. A few years ago Ellen Petry Leanse, former exec at Google and Apple (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/just-say-ellen-petry-leanse) noticed that women use the word ‘just’ frequently in emails, conversations and emails. She felt that this was a ‘permission’ word that put the other party in a position of authority and control. Shane Ferro, writing in Business Insider (http://tinyurl.com/zkjutoy), disputes Leanses’s claims saying that women should not have to self-regulate everything that they are saying since this in itself undermines their confidence.

When women try to act more like their male counterparts and use strong language they are often viewed negatively. Therefore, it is important to find your own, unique voice and style that reflects who you are and how you want to be seen. If you are happy to be seen as hard and aggressive, that’s fine. If you want to have a different reputation, look for a way to get your message across in an assertive, yet feminine way.

Believe in yourself, you are in your position because your colleagues and seniors think that you are capable and have a valid perspective. Speak out with authority on topics where you have a viewpoint and something to contribute.

Think about how you want to come across to other participants; what impression do you want to make? What do you want them to say and think about you? Ensure that you wear outfits that make you feel good and confident whilst respecting the dress code.

 Learning suggestions:

  • Think about what you want your reputation to be. What behaviours will reinforce this brand? Make sure that you look and act the part. For example, if you want to be promoted, take actions that demonstrate that you are capable of operating at that level and people will start visualizing you there;
  • Set yourself a goal to be more assertive in meetings. Enlist the help of a trusted colleague who can give you feedback on how you came across and what impact you had on the other attendees. Take this feedback on board and try to improve your interactions in future;
  • Listen attentively to how others put their ideas across. What language do they use? What emotion do they convey; do they remain calm and composed? Do they get angry? Do they emphasize important points? Analyse what techniques are effective in which scenarios and try to incorporate them into your own communication style;
  • Remember these following tips:
    • Use the word ‘I’ so that you retain control;
    • Maintain eye contact;
    • Have a good posture;
    • Express body language by using gestures that convey warmth and openness;
    • Be clear. Make short statements that are to the point and unambiguous;
    • Learn to be comfortable with silence and pauses. This can emphasize the point you are making and also give people time to think and digest what you are saying;
    • Use appropriate language i.e. no swearing and don’t be rude!
    • If you feel strong emotions welling up (for example, tears or anger) take some deep breaths to give you time to compose yourself;
    • Be aware of your voice i.e. not too soft or too loud;
    • Take responsibility for yourself.
  • When you find yourself doubting your ability, remember that ability grows with experience and effort. In other words: “The will must be stronger than the skill” (Sheryl Sandberg);

How many of the tips above do you follow? Identify areas and situations where you can increase your assertiveness.

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Situation 44: inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment

Femsy and Mansy are still sharing the office together. The working relationship has stabilized over time. Lately, however, Mansy starts to make sexually tinted comments to Femsy and is touching her when she is passing.  Femsy reports the incident to Boss.

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A great leader:

  • Takes notice of her feelings during interactions with others and responds to them rather than ignore feelings of discomfort;
  • Sets and communicates clear boundaries of what is and is not acceptable behavior to her colleagues;
  • Confronts colleagues who act disrespectfully towards others;
  • Acts with integrity and regard at all times to her colleagues;
  • Is a role model to others.

How to best handle the situation:

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Situation 42: Unpopular tasks

A special project team, under supervision of Boss, is working on a business critical project. One of the project members is not pulling his weight and Betsy is gradually picking up more of his tasks. Boss praises Betsy for her flexibility and dedication to the project. Boss decides to take the project member concerned out of the project team. He discusses with Betsy how to best approach this sensitive situation since, according to him, she has very well developed interpersonal skills. Before Betsy knows she is the one who has to break the bad news to the project team member.

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A great leader:

  • Provides support and guidance to build other’s capabilities without taking away responsibility;
  • Is assertive and expresses her needs in a calm, clear and professional manager;
  • Is courageous and willing to challenge authority to ‘do the right thing’.

How to best handle the situation:

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Situation 34: Assertive language

Femsy is slowly but surely growing in her role. Her communication style though, differs greatly from the assertive style from her male peers and subordinates. Billy strongly suggests her to start every sentence with “I” (“I think”, “I believe”). In this way she will come across much more confident.

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