How To Be More Assertive And Confident At Work
You’ve got thoughts, opinions and ideas to share. You’ve got experience under your belt and a unique perspective that none of your colleagues have. Yet, when it comes to sharing your views at work? Something holds you back.
You feel shy, quiet and a lack of confidence eats you up inside. Sometimes you find it can be hard to get a word in edgeways, as more outspoken colleagues take over the conversation.
Here’s how to get past that. This is how to be more assertive and confident at work.
When you lose confidence at work
Before you can start to rebuild your confidence, you need to find the trigger. Perhaps you’ve always struggled with your confidence and self-worth. Or maybe this is a newer thing, triggered by a recent promotion or a move to a new culture at work.
Many people struggle with speaking up in meetings because their colleagues are older and more experienced than them, so they don’t feel comfortable with voicing their opinions. But the key thing to remember is that your opinion is always valid. It might not have the same experience as your coworkers’ but it has your unique perspective. You’ve been hired for a reason, so lean into that.
The importance of confidence in the workplace
Confidence is one of the most important skills any employee can have. Yet it’s also one of the hardest things to master. Rather than being taught in a classroom, confidence is a skill that’s built and developed over time. And its impact, both for employers and employees, is tremendous.
- Confidence allows you to be more assertive, giving your opinion and advancing your career. You’re able to show what you know, boosting your status in the eyes of your employer
- Confidence enables you to challenge yourself more, taking on more difficult tasks and responsibilities. Again, this can help develop your career whilst strengthening your skillset
- Confidence improves your communication skills. When you’re more confident, you’re able to deliver your thoughts more effectively
Being aggressive vs being assertive
It’s a common misconception that assertiveness is synonymous with aggressiveness.
Being assertive means that you are giving your thoughts and opinions in a way that is respectful to the other party. On the other hand, being aggressive means that you are intending to overpower that other party with your views.
The two definitions are often tangled together, especially when a company is working across different cultural norms. In such a scenario, what’s considered to be assertive by one culture might be considered to be aggressive by another.
When a confusion like this occurs, you can try to use perceptual positioning to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Ask yourself, “could the way I’m communicating be perceived as aggressive?”.
A lot of the time, coaching is about helping an individual be more aware and mindful. So they can see things from different perspectives and have more options to choose from in the way that they communicate.
How to be more assertive and confident at work
Over 75% of women say that they don’t feel confident in their work relationships, stating that they lack supportive environments, growth and development opportunities and professional networks.
Whilst 59% of men report that their lack of confidence is holding them back in their careers. And less than a quarter of young people in the UK said that they felt confident in their future career, when surveyed by the Princes Trust.
Let’s take a look at some of the practical steps you can take to become more assertive and confident at work, and overcome those statistics!
Store your confidence for future use
How do you feel when you receive positive feedback? It could be a review, a kind email, a few warm words of encouragement after a presentation… Whatever it is, it always evokes that same sense of confidence inside.
Now imagine that you can store that confidence for future use. How would you feel if you could open up that box of confidence every time you needed a boost?
That’s exactly what a sunshine folder can do.
A sunshine folder is a single location where you store all the positive feedback you’ve ever received. How you build it is up to you, you could star positive emails, write down verbal feedback or even print it all out and stick it on your wall.
The important thing is that you do it. So the next time you’re feeling those nerves ahead of a big presentation or a new job interview, you’ve got a boost of confidence ready to go.
Use confidence-building visualisation techniques
When Australia became the first ever country other than the USA to win sailing’s America’s Cup in 1983, they used the power of visualisation. Their coach, John Bertrand, recorded a guided visualisation that was so strong, the team couldn’t imagine themselves not winning.
When there’s one specific thing that you’re not feeling confident about, like speaking up at a meeting or leading a presentation, visualise yourself doing it. And visualise yourself doing it well.
Paint this picture in your mind over and over again until the time comes. Then, bring that visualisation to life.
Need some help? Coaching can help you hone this process.
Break down the fear
We all know that learning a new skill means breaking it down into small bitesize steps and working your way through them piece by piece. The exact same thing applies to building confidence.
You need to take that scary task and break it down, bit by bit.
Let’s say you’re dreading speaking up in front of your whole team in an important meeting. Take a look at how you can start small. Can you begin by sharing your opinion one-on-one with a manager? And then, taking that opinion to a slightly larger forum, like a small team meeting? Before finally sharing it across your entire team?
Try to put a gradual plan together to break down your fear and tackle it, step by step.
Use your body language to build your confidence
According to Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, open body positions can help you take up space and send signals to the brain that you’re feeling confident.
Before that big presentation, try to alter your body language and use your movements to boost your levels of confidence and assertiveness. The “power pose” is a great way to do this. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put your hands in the air or place them on your hips.
Ask for help
You’re not alone in this. And you don’t have to do it by yourself. There’s plenty of help out there to aid you in building confidence throughout your career path.
Here are just a few ways you can ask for help:
- If someone else is always leading the conversation in meetings, ask a manager if they can assist by facilitating more input from other members of the team
- Ask your team leaders for constructive feedback after your presentations, to give you ideas for how to improve and boost your confidence along the way
- When there’s a meeting where you wish you could’ve given your opinion, ask your boss for a few moments after the session where you can share your thoughts one-on-one instead
- Ask your organisation for training and support to develop your confidence, through executive coaching or soft skills training