5 Tiny Habits Of The Most Assertive People

Learn how to be more assertive at work to express your point of view without causing more conflict.

Woman asserting her feelings at work JohnnyGreig | Canva

Assertiveness in the workplace can be mistaken for aggressiveness, yet being aggressive tends to happen when you want to leave a mark. Comments about a co-worker can go too far. You get called out for being too excessive when challenging others during a meeting. And you might even get shunned for inadvertently mocking a colleague. Confrontations and a crass attitude may be effective briefly, but you might get caught in their tidal wave. Take it from Isaac Newton. He knew. Newton's third law tells us for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Forces always occur in pairs. When one body pushes against another, the second body pushes back just as hard.


When you need to push back, think of pushing forward. In pushing back, you do the old "eye for an eye" thing, as perfectly stated in the words of George Perry Graham when he argued against the death penalty in the Canadian House of Parliament, "...if capital punishment is being inflicted on some man, we are inclined to say: ‘It serves him right.’ That is not the spirit, I believe, in which legislation is enacted. If in this present age, we were to go back to the old time of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ there would be very few hon. gentlemen in this House who would not, metaphorically speaking, be blind and toothless."


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Here are 5 tiny habits of the most assertive people:

1. They separate the person from the point of view.

Challenge what is said, not who the person is. Be clear about disagreeing with what is said and push forward by asking questions rather than making blanket statements to prove the person wrong.



2. They don't flood.

Resist the tendency to put everything the other has said into the present discussion. Bite your tongue when you are ready to say, "Furthermore..." or "You always..." or "Everyone else thinks..."


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3. They offer solutions.

Be prepared with at least three perspectives that could help solve the problem at hand. Go beyond disagreeing by offering some ideas on what can be done that will open a new path of possibilities.



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4. They stick with positives.

Condition yourself to use the "yes, and.." way of discussing, rather than the "yes, but..." more combative way of taking a stand. Practice using "and," a word that connects rather than inhibits. It guarantees more openness when you are in a push-back/push-forward situation.

5. They know when to stop.

You can't win them all, at least not in the moment you are in debate. Some battles are better lost while you keep the larger view in mind. Concede with grace and respect and wait until the timing is more appropriate.

effective business communication

Photo: Gorodenkoff via Shutterstock


Speaking up to express your opinion often takes courage and vulnerability. Leadership development training is a lifelong process, and knowing when to speak out and when to shut up is an important art and craft for today's business world. Pushing forward, as opposed to pushing back, means rocking the boat, ruffling feathers, and getting out of the comfort zone. It means considering your impact on those around you and the long-range impact of your actions.

Remember Newton's law and be prepared for others to disagree. That's expected. However, if you stay clear and open to hear others, it is disarming. You can't push your opinions down someone's throat, that is the ineffective way. The most important aspect of being pushy is to build trust by being candid and sharing original thoughts. You can do better when you push forward by including others rather than being determined to get your point of view on top.

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Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Ph.D., is a CEO and is an accomplished change management expert and executive coach with over 35 years of experience.