It's not easy to be assertive: to stand up for your needs; to communicate to others what you really feel, especially when you know it might conflict with their point of view. But assertiveness is essential for effective communication and relationship building. It's also key for you to get more of what you deserve. With that in mind, here are my best tips for bringing more assertiveness into your work life.
1. Discover and embrace your “why.” Learning to be assertive takes effort and initiative. For that reason, it's critical to find a source of motivation within yourself for making the change. Perhaps you feel unrecognized at work. Maybe you see assertiveness as essential for growing into the manager or leader you one day hope to become. Whatever the reason might be — find it, embrace it, and use it as fuel for making the change.
2. Treat assertiveness as a skill. Anyone can learn to become more assertive. It's a skill – a technique that you can master. So, treat it that way. Hone your technique. Practice your script. Find opportunities to practice – ideally, at least initially, in situations you'll likely succeed in to get a few “small wins” under your belt. And work on building your skill and confidence over time.
3. Set goals. Don't just tell yourself “I have to be more assertive” and leave it at that. Make your goals very specific. For example, you might decide that you're going to practice being more assertive once a day — or once every other day — or once every Monday at the staff meeting – or whatever makes sense for you. Just make sure to make the goals specific and achievable. And keep track of your progress, so you can chart improvement over time.
4. Find your own way. Research suggests that a “moderately” assertive style tends to be most effective (compared to a super assertive or super unassertive style), but there's no one single, particular way of achieving this moderate goal. So, experiment. TInker. Try your hand at adjusting your body language, your script. The more you can customize and personalize your own style of assertiveness, the more successful and authentic you'll feel.
No one ever said it was easy to stand up for yourself and express your needs. But with a commitment to change and a firm plan in place, you'll be well on your way towards getting more of what you deserve.
Andy Molinsky is the author of the new book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (Penguin Random House, 2017).
Previously published at Inc.com.