‘Can you help me with the assignment?’ ‘Are you available to work tonight?’ ‘Can you meet me tonight?’ ‘Can you take over my part of the assignment?’

Do these questions sound familiar? For me, there was a time when I always answered them with a "yes", no matter how I felt about them. But after I went through a difficult period, exhaustion set in. Before that, I had never realized I was sub-assertive.

Sub-assertive people find it difficult to stand up for themselves. They consider others more important than themselves and keep a lot to themselves to avoid confrontation. Risks that sub-assertive people face are stress symptoms and overload because they constantly try to please others and take more upon them than that they can handle.

The opposite of being sub-assertive is being aggressive, which should not be confused with assertiveness. In contrast to sub-assertive people, people who exhibit aggressive behavior often walk all over others. They are commanding in their way of communicating and aren’t considerate of other people’s feelings. This behavior causes them to become easily involved in conflicts and makes people hesitant to work with them.  

But what does assertiveness mean? Assertiveness is in between aggressiveness and sub-assertiveness. Assertive people can stand up for themselves, make themselves vulnerable by honestly saying what they feel, want, and think, and they do not avoid conflict. They stay true to themselves, but always maintain respect for others.  

Being assertive towards your colleagues is very important because openness ensures that everyone knows what is going on, there is less gossip, and everyone feels that they have added value, which strengthens the team spirit.  

But can you train assertiveness or is this something that is already determined in your character? Assertiveness can certainly be trained. Speaking from my own experiences, it can take a while. But when I managed to be assertive, I felt an overflow of pride and relief. It even turned out that I am good at leading a team. Maybe a great leader is hiding somewhere deep inside you, who will come to light when you show more assertiveness. Never forget that you have the right to be assertive.  

Tips to be more assertive:

1. Speak your mind, wishes, and needs clearly 

Don't assume others know what you think and what you want, but proclaim your opinion. Try to avoid words like "probably" and "possibly".  Words like these make your opinion seem less important than it is.

2. Dare to say “no”

Try to just say "no" if the request doesn't fit into your schedule, or if you don't want to do something. Explaining is not even always necessary, because ultimately you have the right to say "no." However, it can be difficult to say "no" without some explanation. So, if you find that difficult, start saying "no" with honest reasoning and not with excuses.

3. Speak from the first person

Try to speak from the first person when something is bothering you. Speaking in the first person will bring out your opinion without making other people feel that you are criticizing them. For example, say; "I don't appreciate the way you talk to me”. Instead of, "The way you talk to me is unpleasant and mean.” 

4. Don't take it personally

When someone gives feedback, try not to take it personally, because it is meant to improve yourself and take you to the next level. Try to remember that giving feedback is not easy and that when you give it, you are not doing it to hurt someone.

5. Respect yourself 

To succeed in the above tips, you must realize that you are worthy of giving your opinion, saying "no" and setting your boundaries. You are of value in a group, a team, to those around you. Stay true to yourself.

If you are interested in getting more information and tips about assertiveness, check out:

How to speak up for yourself | Adam Galinsky - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEDgtjpycYg

How to Be More Assertive: 7 Tips - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBkvWCmz2W4

BUas also has a wide range of BESTtraining courses with these types of topics. These are offered throughout the year. If you are interested, check SharePoint from time to time, there may be something for you.