There is a common misconception that being too kind at work will lead to you being a pushover, whereas being too assertive will earn you a negative reputation. However, is it ever so simple? Often, there is no one-size-fit-approach as to how kind or aggressive one should behave. It depends on the situation on hand, the person you are interacting with and which strategies are appropriate.
Should you need to stand up for yourself even though you consider yourself non-confrontational, here are some ways suggested by Marlen Komar on how to do it:
1. Be Direct About What You Want
Being direct is in no way rude — all you’re doing is asking for what you need! You don’t have to feel guilty over that. If you don’t reach for what you want, the chances are slim that it’ll fall into your lap. Angelina Darrisaw, an international business and career coach, shares in an email with Bustle, “Don’t worry about whether or not you’re nice. Worry about if you are communicating clearly and regularly asking for what you want. You can avoid being perceived as anything but nice by regularly being decisive and sharing a firm point of view when you contribute.” If you’re regularly determined and strong-minded then you won’t be tagged as “mean,” but rather serious about your job.
2. It’s Not Being Mean, It’s Being Firm
You might be hesitant to stand up for yourself in case you get labeled as mean or aggressive. Poinsette-Nash shares in an email, “There’s a lot of ego in the working world and early in my career, I found myself in situations where I felt taken advantage of, unfairly treated and on the odd occasion, even bullied. I had to develop thick skin fast, otherwise known as resilience, and learn to stand up for myself in a professional way. You don’t need to compromise your integrity, you don’t need to stop being nice, but you certainly don’t need to take any s**t!”
3. Bring Topics Up When You Aren’t Emotional
If you have something bothering you about your position or need to stand up to a steam-roller in your project, it’s best to approach the topic when you’re not swept up in whatever emotions you’re feeling. “Make an effort to communicate about difficult topics, when you aren’t worked up. Work to separate that personally charged emotion from what you need to communicate. This will help give you the confidence to stand up for yourself,” Darrisaw advises. By removing the emotions, you’ll be able to respond professionally and will hit your boss or co-workers with facts, not subjective feelings.
4. Use Silence To Your Advantage
If you’re in a moment where someone tries to take a pot-shot at work or your boss just pulled a bogus move, stand up for yourself with the use of silence. “Whether it’s in negotiations, board meetings or professional arguments, people want to have their say, interject and counter-attack with anything that might allow them to shine, even if it is at your expense. Silence will destabilize the speaker in seconds — they’re expecting words and the lack of them causes people to fill the void,” Poinsette-Nash shares. The more a person talks, the more they run the risk of saying too much, which can work in your favor and help you get what you need.
5. Come In Prepared
When it’s time to put the Mr-Nice-Guy away, make sure you come in swinging with ready facts and points. Your demands and observations will be taken way more seriously that way. “The best time to be assertive is when you are clear on the result that you want. You may not always get that, but your odds are much more favorable the clearer you are. Take time to arm yourself with information to make your case, practice if you need to, and then go for it,” Darrisaw recommends. When you know exactly what you need the outcome to be, you’ll be less likely to be brushed off.