If you shudder at the thought of speaking up at a meeting full of your coworkers or would rather curl up in a ball and hide than give a presentation in front of your boss, we feel you. It can be undeniably terrifying to exude confidence and be assertive at your place of work, especially if you are a typically timid person.
Everyone has their fears and insecurities, but it’s rising above those and making your voice be heard that will set you apart from the rest of your coworkers and ultimately send you further in your career and in life. We know it’s easier said than done, but here are a few simple tips to help you put your best foot forward. You got this!
1. Always be present.
If the idea of being assertive at work is more than a bit daunting for you, don’t worry just start small. One simple, yet vitally important practice is being present. Physically being at work is not the same as being present. Prove to your supervisors that you are actively participating by listening attentively, acknowledging conversational clues and asking questions when necessary. Ravelle Worthington at SELF says, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It shows you’re unafraid to both acknowledge you didn’t understand something and get the insight you need.”
2. Observe others and practice.
Chances are, there’s someone in your office (a coworker or supervisor perhaps) that you look up to and admire for their bold work ethic. Take note of the practices this person uses on a daily basis and the way they interact with other employees. How do they make sure their voice is heard and what is it about them that others respect? Once you’ve figured this out take time to practice at home. Whether it be a project proposal or simply a day-to-day conversation with the CEO, rehearsing your questions and responses is a great way to shake off your nerves and boost your confidence. “Before you go to an important negotiation or conversation, practice a role-play with a friend or co-worker beforehand so that you can be more confident asserting yourself,” says Anna Runyan, Leadership Coach and Founder of ClassyCareerGirl.com.
3. Use your voice.
Never be afraid to speak up during a meeting. Don’t wait to be called on, take the initiative to speak your mind and make your voice be heard. Not only will your boss notice your confidence, but they will appreciate your attention to the subject matter. According to Michael Hedrick at PsychCentral, “Being assertive is simply trusting in your own judgment enough to know when you can or can’t do something and staying firm with that judgment. If you have the experience and you have the skills, what’s stopping you?”
4. Never apologize for doing your job.
You should never ever feel the need to apologize for doing your job. If it’s in your job description to remind your boss about an important task, don’t feel bad about doing so. That’s what you were hired for. Being assertive is about having confidence in yourself and not questioning your purpose by apologizing for necessary duties. According to Kelsey Miller at Refinery29, “It would be a misstep not to ask for that draft or follow up on that request. Apologizing in these scenarios is not only needless; it fosters an unhealthy dynamic between you and your coworkers.”
5. Speak in headlines.
This is a big one. If you are a nervous rambler like myself, any uncomfortable situation can send you into a spiral of filler words and nonsensical justifications for what you’re trying to say. Try talking in short and clear headlines, highlighting only the absolutely necessary. According to Worthington, “When sharing an idea or expressing your thoughts, try to think of the headline you want to communicate in advance and stick to that when relaying your message. This little trick will help you to share your thoughts concisely and clearly, without rambling. It also helps you to make your point with more assertion.”
6. Aim for being respected over being liked.
As women, we have a hard enough time getting the respect we deserve in the work place. Being more assertive is the only way to make your coworkers respect you. They may not like you all the time, but they sure as hell are going to listen to your opinion. According to Runyan, “As professional women, we often want everyone we work with to like us. But, that can create a lot of stress and anxiety and make it harder for us to assert ourselves. Instead strive for having the guys you work with respect you instead of like you.”
7. Be confident and recognize your value.
We know being confident and self-asserting at work is no easy task, but take it one step at a time. Don’t forget fake it till you make it. The more you pretend to be confident in your abilities, the more you actually will be. Also, remember you were hired for a reason, because you add value to your profession. According to Kelsey Miller at Refinery29, “When you step outside your comfort zone and realize it’s not so scary after all — that, in fact, it’s pretty great — you’re actually rewiring your brain. Your response patterns will begin to change and these new behaviors will become habits.” So don’t give up, each day is a new opportunity to reinvent yourself.