How to be more assertive at work

Have you ever watched a colleague deal with challenging situations with such professionalism and ease that you’ve been left wondering how they do it?

As your career progresses, it becomes more and more important to share your opinion and have your voice heard in the workplace. Being quiet can be misconstrued as being uninterested, which can ultimately harm your performance and the way your behaviour is interpreted.

Assertiveness is a skill just like any other, and it can be learned and honed over time and with practice. Being assertive can help you to develop leadership skills and conflict resolution abilities as well as boosting your confidence.

With the benefits in mind, follow our tips and learn how to be more assertive. You’ll even improve your communication and boost your job performance whilst you’re at it.


1. Recognize your value and rights

Assertiveness is the happy medium between being passive and being aggressive. Passive people often believe they have fewer rights than others, and aggressive people usually think they somehow have more of a right than others. Neither is the case! Assertive people understand that everybody is equal. They know that have just as much right as everybody else, and understand that everyone can collaborate as equals to achieve goals.

If you really struggle with expressing your opinion and beliefs, whether it’s in the workplace or not, a good starting point is learning to have a strong sense of self-belief.

Stop attributing your successes to luck and your failures to internal flaws. Instead, take responsibility for both. Taking responsibility for your failures as well as your successes will improve your self-belief, which is the first step to becoming more assertive. Being honest about your mistakes and acknowledging them demonstrates self-assurance and a willingness to learn from them.

2. Use empowering language and body language

One of the fastest ways to become more assertive is to watch your language and adjust it.

When we’re feeling hesitant or uncertain, we add filler words that devalue our language and the message we’re communicating.

Fillers are words like “um” and “kind of”, and we normally use them when we’re trying to give ourselves time to think or to make ourselves feel more comfortable. Using excessive fillers (because let’s be honest, nobody is perfect!) makes you appear as an ineffective communicator, so try to avoid them as much as possible.

Another quick way to empower your language is by ensuring that you never end statements with a rise in intonation. In other words, stop making everything you say sound like it’s a question. Doing so makes you seem unsure of yourself and what you’re trying to say. And if you’re unsure of it, why should anyone else be?


Don’t forget that you need to concentrate on your body language, too.

When we’re feeling insecure, our body language gives it away. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you convey confidence and authority.

Avoid crossing your arms or hunching your shoulders. Instead, project confidence. Relax, open your shoulders up and lean back in your chair with your arms on the armrest. Keep eye contact, and make sure that you’re sitting (or standing) straight.

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Your posture can have a huge impact on the way you feel, and the way you feel in a situation makes all the difference.

team meetings

3. Keep your cool

In situations with strong opinions and lots of disagreement, things can get heated. When this happens, it’s important to stay calm and clear-headed.

There are two directions non-assertive people usually head in when things get tense. The first way is to speak quietly, and the other is to yell. Neither are beneficial in high-stress situations like this.

Always manage your volume when things get heated. The level at which you speak has an impact on how people interpret your message, so it’s important to get it right. Make sure that everybody can hear you and that your voice is even.

It’s important to welcome disagreement, too. Listen to what other people have to say – it’s common courtesy! Remember that being assertive is having an understanding of equality. It’s being able to look at the big picture instead of only focusing on what you as an individual can contribute. Considering what other people have to say will make them more likely to listen to your point of view.

Elaine Slater recommends you keep emotions out of it and maintain professionalism. If you maintain your composure and keep your cool, your voice will stand out.

4. Find a role model

Another way to learn how to be more assertive is by watching how other people do it.

Your role model can be anyone inside or outside of work, as long as they exude assertiveness. Pay close attention to the way they handle objections and challenges. Watch their body language – what does it say about them? What about the language they use? Do they hesitate before speaking, or do they speak clearly and with confidence?

A good way to learn is through observation, so start paying attention to how the top performers in your workplace behave.

5. Practice

Becoming assertive won’t happen overnight. It can be uncomfortable at first, and the dynamics of your relationships in and out of work will change as you start standing and speaking up for yourself.

It’s important that you embrace difficult or uncomfortable situations. Don’t skirt around issues just because you don’t feel confident. Face any problems that you encounter head on – you’ll demonstrate self-assurance, and eventually you’ll become completely comfortable doing so.


Learning how to be more assertive can help you come out on top in challenging situations at work. It will help you to feel more confident, and will earn you respect among co-workers.

Do you have any other tips or advice about how to be more assertive? Let us know in the comments section below.



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