Being assertive has been incorrectly associated with being aggressive, especially for women, in the workplace. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this important attribute. I recently read a blog post written by Ms. Barbara Pachter, internationally recognized Business Etiquette trainer, on the topic of asserting ourselves with good manners. Her ideas are sound and practical. Plus, they are easy to implement. These tips can also help us in our personal lives.
1. Establish your presence. Walk into the room like you belong there. Your confidence will naturally increase as a result. Greeting and speaking to others won’t feel so intimidating.
2. Understand the consequences of not speaking up. You want to be taken seriously as a credible and competent professional. Not speaking up could undermine your image.
3. Prepare ahead of time. Preparation and planning are a must just like the Scout’s motto. Make it your own. Know the agenda of the meeting, for example. As Pachter recommends, think about what you want to say for each topic and speak with confidence.
4. Speak early. The longer you wait to speak at a meeting/event, the harder it is to speak later. Perhaps nerves will have set in. Try to ask a question or make a comment near the beginning.
5. Make your point without asking permission. You lose power in the conversation if you begin a question with “May I make a point?”. The others could say “No”. Simply say, “I have a point” or just speak your comments as Ms. Pachter recommends.
6. Speak loudly enough to be heard. Practice your voice intonation using the smart phone. Record yourself and analyze. Is your voice loud enough? Keep practicing until you have a good volume and use it during meetings/presentations.
7. Know when to interrupt. Your mom may have said never to interrupt but it can be done with good manners. Ms. Pachter advises when the other person has paused to take a breath then this is a good time to interrupt with your thoughts. You might not get another chance!!
8. Avoid giving too much detail. Just the facts, Ma’am. Belaboring your points will make others tune you out. Say what is necessary in a few words.
9. Control your body language. Watch that you don’t have annoying habits like tapping a pen or playing with your hair. These can be very distracting for others. Ms. Pachter mentions that you have more confidence when using direct eye contact.
10. Eliminate self-discounting statements. Self-deprecating opening comments like, “It’s only my opinion” or “I’m not sure, what do you think?”. Ms. Pachter warns that these statements discount you and unfortunately others will, too.
Feel more at ease when meeting new clients, attending conferences or presenting to an audience using these tips. As the saying goes, “fake it til you make it”. Watch yourself become the successful entrepreneur that you know you can be.