Confidence and assertive communication at work

While this site is generally focused on how organisations communicate externally, today’s post is all about in-house communication: how we talk to each other at work. Yesterday, I attended a seminar by Maria Lynch from Motivated Joyful Living, on Strategies for building a Confident and Positive Sense of Self.

We may not all need to communicate with the same level of care as master orator Barack Obama, but our communication skills are still highly likely to determine our level of success at work.

Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most important points and how they can be applied in the workplace.

Assertive communication with colleagues

Learning to communicate assertively, which means making your position known without coming across as aggressive or passive aggressive, is a vital skill in developing your career. You may have strong feelings on a given topic, but be mindful that how you say things is just as important as what you say.

Here are some simple steps to follow in communicating assertively:
· Listen: It’s important that everyone at the table feels heard
· Acknowledge: Make a genuine attempt to understand the other side’s concerns
· Speak: State your own position calmly and firmly
· Negotiate: Stand your ground, but be open to counter-arguments
· Get results: Focus on achieving the desired outcome instead of emotion or ego
· Compromise: Try to find a solution that both sides are comfortable with that

communication-skillsSpotting, identifying and challenging faulty thinking

Good as our intentions may be, human nature means that occasionally we will fall into patterns of faulty thinking. The sooner we can identify these patterns, the sooner we can take corrective action. These habits can come up in the ways we think about ourselves in our internal dialogue, or when we’re dealing with colleagues. Either way, it’s destructive in a work (or home) environment.

Here are some examples of faulty thinking:

· Generalising the specific: Negative feedback and minor disappointments will happen occasionally at work. When you’re talking about them, avoid words like “always” and “never”, because they’re rarely true and never helpful.

· Labelling: “I’m stupid”, “He’s arrogant”, “She’s flighty” – Labelling ourselves or others is unfair, as once we’ve made a decision that someone is arrogant, for example, we may find it difficult to move away from that view, no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented.

· Mind-reading: Most people are guilty of this to a certain extent. “He didn’t invite me to lunch because I got the promotion over him”, “She didn’t copy me on that email because she doesn’t want me to succeed here.” Human beings tend to be very poor mind-readers, so it’s a habit we should avoid.

· Catastrophizing: While anticipating potential problems will likely be part of some of your projects, a consistent focus on the extreme worst case scenario is a distracting and unhelpful way of working. Be realistic about problems that are likely to come up, and plan for them.

· Rigid thinking: Sometimes when we’re close to a project and have a really clear vision for how we want it to come out, we can fall into the trap of tunnel vision. Rigid thinking is a refusal to be flexible, or take others’ ideas on board, even if they are relevant and valid.

These are mistakes it’s quite normal to make from time to time, but it’s important to spot them early on and take steps to mitigate them.


· Feelings aren’t facts – separate the logical from the emotional
· Don’t over-personalise – other people’s behaviour is not always a reaction to you
· Blame is a distortion that we sometimes use to avoid responsibility
· Carry out a thought-shift exercise – ask yourself “Is this an emotional reaction, or do I have evidence that supports my thinking?

Awareness is the key – there’s no need to beat yourself up if you recognise yourself in some of the examples above, simply refer back to the tips on assertive communication above.

Do you find assertive communication challenging? Have you experienced the kinds of faulty thinking seen above at the office?Leave a comment below.

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6 thoughts on “Confidence and assertive communication at work

  1. Empire says:

    This is really helpful and informative!
    I think people can’t grasp that words are just words and it depends on us how they affect us.

  2. Ana De- Jesus says:

    I think there is definitely a fine line between assertiveness and aggression and some people need to learn that especially like you said when it comes to labeling!

  3. Inherskinsite says:

    Really interesting article, sometimes we just ignore the fact that we’re the first victims of our behavior. I’ll try to remember your helpful tips, thank you for sharing!

  4. Rashmi&Chalukya says:

    Assertive communication is so important, as important it is to keep our views it is really important to be a good listener. And we are completely against labelling it is so unethical

  5. CourtneyLynne says:

    There is definitely a fine line between the two. You can be passionate about a topic and have enough control to not come off aggressive!

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