No matter your gender, being assertive can be challenging. In all the years I have been a professional, being assertive has been an uphill battle. As a woman who has often held leadership roles, there has been more than one time I have been labeled the B word. I have seen this same thing happen to other women. Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years that have greatly helped me.
Unless it is on fire or cut off, deal with it when you are ready
This has been my mantra since I ran a summer camp. To employees, parents, board members, and peers, everything can feel like an emergency. And as such, the way they present the matter to you can sometimes put you on the defense. Rather than allowing their feelings to affect my response, (remember, no one can make you react, it is your choice to react), I listen or read their issue, then I ask myself, “Is this a true emergency?” More times than not, it isn’t. Which means you have the opportunity to take a minute before you respond.
Collect Yourself Before Responding
As odd as this may sound, when your basic needs are met, it is much easier for you to stay calm, give a positive response, and be assertive. As often as possible, meet your basic needs. Never be afraid to ask for five minutes. In the time it takes to use the restroom, drink a glass of water, or eat a quick bite, you can collect your thoughts, choose your words, and look at different perspectives.
I have learned over the years there are three perspectives to every situation. What one person thinks happened, what the other person thinks happened, and what actually happened. As humans, we can never have a clear understanding or perspective of a situation. Our lenses, made up of who we are, past experiences, and unmet needs, filter every experience. Thus we see our interpretation of a situation. When we can try to see others' perspectives, we can gain clarity to a situation and confidence.
We cannot be assertive if we are not confident. And we cannot be confident if we are not happy with ourselves. In other words, we must make peace with ourselves, offer grace and kindness, and know that every day we do better. When we are confident, we are kind, grounded, and assertive.
I can often allow other people to intimidate me. I have a great career, I have accomplished a lot in my life, and strive to be kind to others. And yet, standing in front of people, I can feel like a kid. In those moments, I remember that I am also quite accomplished in my workouts. If I have the courage to get in a boxing ring and the ability to flip HUGE tires, I have the ability to be confident and assertive.