Have you ever felt guilty about saying, “No”? Do you think that your colleagues regard you as a pushover? Have you ever told yourself, “It’s better to be well-liked than well-respected?” Or maybe you let people push you to your limits until you have an angry outburst? If you recognize yourself in any of these situations, you are not alone. Non-assertive behavior is common in the workplace.
What Is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is defined as honest, direct, and appropriate expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. It’s a vital element of effective communication. And healthy communication is what allows you to achieve your own goals, as well as the goals you share with your work team. In other words, by being assertive, you get what you need while preserving your rights and dignity.
You are assertive (not aggressive) if you:
- Easily recognize and compliment other people’s achievements
- Have the confidence to ask for what is rightfully yours
- Accept criticism without being defensive
- Feel comfortable accepting compliments
- Express negative feelings about other people and their behaviors without using abusive language
- Refuse unreasonable requests from friends, family, or coworkers
- Comfortably start and carry on conversations with others
- Ask for assistance when you need it
How to Say No
If you want to be more assertive, let’s get one thing straight: No is not a dirty word. If something makes you feel uncomfortable or if you feel the request is unreasonable, it is your prerogative to refuse. Remember: You are not saying no to the whole person, only to the part of the relationship that makes you feel uncomfortable.
“No,” is a complete sentence. Here are four steps you can follow to make it a little easier:
1. Make sure you understand the request completely.
Do not be hasty in coming to a conclusion. Ask questions if you need clarification.
“About how long do you think that will take?”
“Do you want me to complete that task by this Wednesday or next Wednesday?”
“Can you tell me more about that?
Use your active listening skills. Repeat back to the person what you think he or she is asking for.
2 .Say no immediately.
“No.” (This is a complete sentence.)
“I can’t do that.”
“I can’t agree to that.”
Do not try to make the no sound like yes. People don’t like being manipulated.
3. Give a clear and honest reason for your refusal.
Without giving a reason, you may come off as uncooperative or hostile. You do not need to argue with the other party, nor do you do need to give a lengthy dissertation on why you can’t meet the request.
“I have other obligations at that time.”
“My workload won’t allow me to meet that deadline.”
“I don’t like the food at that restaurant.”
4. Let the other party know that you will try to help.
But be clear that you are unable to perform the entire request. Offer to find an alternative.
“I’d love to attend that meeting, but I can’t go on that day. What about Thursday at the same time?”
“Could you extend the deadline to the 15th of this month?”
“What I will do is…”
“What you can do to help me meet your request is…”
Give Yourself a Break
Change is hard. When you notice yourself giving in or getting defensive in response to a request, give yourself a little breathing space. Awareness is the first step in change, and you can’t transform your behavior overnight.
On the other hand, be sure to reward yourself every time you make a breakthrough with assertiveness: every time you say no, every time you state your feelings directly, and every time you ask for help when you need it.