You can learn how to be friendly at work while also making sure your voice is heard.

How to be assertive without being passive aggressive

Great communicators know how to be friendly yet assertive in the workplace. But people still think of the word "assertive" in a negative light, licenced social worker and author Signe Whitson said in a Psych Central article. 

"The hierarchy of many workplace cultures makes the direct expression of emotions risky for employers and employees alike," Whitson explained. 

But if you can strike the right balance between respect for others and assertiveness, then you won't make others feel as threatened. Here are a few tips about how you can develop both professionally and personally in your communication. 

Find your own voice 

Learn how you can find your own voice when being an assertive communicator.Learn how you can find your own voice when being an assertive communicator.

Trying to imitate others is where a lot of people go wrong when trying to be assertive.  If anything, you should feel more yourself once you do find your assertive voice and are able to speak more candidly with others.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Daniel Ames, an author of "Pushing Up to a Point: Assertiveness and Effectiveness in Leadership and Interpersonal Dynamics," explains how you don't have to adopt a cold and domineering personality to be assertive. Empathy is still possible when you're asking for what you want, he says.

You don't have to amp up your voice or smile less when telling others what you want. Practice feeling comfortable in your assertiveness and remain true to yourself.

Seek first to understand 

How do you remain empathetic while being assertive? Brent Gleeson, an entrepreneur and contributing author to Forbes, suggests that striving to understand where the other person is coming from is crucial. Assertiveness does not mean ceasing to care about asking how others are feeling. Try to understand by asking questions.

Assertiveness does not mean seizing to care about asking how others are feeling.

However, it's important to note that, just because you are validating the other person's feelings, it doesn't mean you have to agree with them. Remember that understanding does not mean acquiescing to someone's demands.

Psychotherapist Andrea Brandt, PhD said, according to Psych Central provided an example of validating emotions without being passive:  "Lisa, I understand that you're upset because you have to switch work days in order to get this project done; however, it is very important to me and I appreciate your doing it." 

To develop in your communication as an employee, learn how to be respectful and genuine while also making it clear what your needs are. 

Being clear and direct about how you feel 

Once you've tried to put yourself in the other person's shoes, make an executive decision and clearly state what you want. 

Clarity and directness are the key words here. When you're assertive, you're not beating around the bush when explaining what you want, Whitson said. 

Explain what you're feeling and why you feel the way you do when being assertive.Explain what you're feeling and why you feel the way you do when being assertive.

Assertiveness also requires being honest with yourself. RMIT University's Counselling Service explains that you need to own your feelings in your communication and veer away from blaming others for how you feel. 

Becoming assertive is a skill but just like any other skill, one that can be learned. RMIT University gives the following phrases that help with being more direct and confident in your speech: 

  • Say "When you" to describe the other person's actions in a factual and direct way. 
  • Use the words "I feel" or "I felt" to make your emotional response to the situation clear.
  • Following up with "because" is useful. It explains the reason why you feel the way you do.
  • End with the statement "What I would like in the future" to make it clear what you want.

Implement Online's Communicating in the Workplace class 

Implement Online's class on effective and clear communication will help you hone the skill of assertiveness and other ways of navigating workplace relationships. Contact us today if you'd like to gain more control over how you communicate and improve your relationships with your co-workers!