I have been traveling quite a bit in April giving workshops in California, Connecticut, and Illinois. Generally my audiences are made up of both men and women, however this month everyone I presented to was female.
Women of all ages are wary of being perceived as too aggressive, and therefore may compensate by communicating in a passive way, even if they feel strongly about something.
Assertiveness is a core leadership trait that can be defined as standing up for your opinions, ideas, beliefs and needs while respecting those of others. This includes self-promotion, something women in particular tend to be uncomfortable doing.
Assertiveness means being self-assured and confident without being aggressive, and expressing both positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open and honest way.
You can feel more at ease with being assertive if you:
- Know the facts of the situation including relevant details
- Anticipate other people’s reactions and behavior, and prepare your responses ahead of time
- Prepare and ask good questions
- Practice your own reactions to aggression or negativity
Choose your language carefully in emails, on the phone, or in meetings. Avoid using discounting language such as “I’m not sure,” “Maybe,” “If you don’t mind,” or “Would it be okay?” Use assertive language like “What if?,” “My experience suggests,” “You might not agree, however,” and “Let’s move forward.”
Assertive communicators value themselves equal to others, speak to the point, and usually reach goals without alienating other people.