Some Ideas on Being Assertive

Question: I recently completed a 360-degree feedback process at work. Everyone around me was asked to rate me on a list of leadership traits. I got a big thick report with my feedback and heard from a lot of folks that I need to be more assertive. I don’t know what that means or what I am supposed to do differently. Any thoughts?

Alice Waagen says: Oh boy, you just gave me another example of how NOT to do 360-degree feedback programs. Reading and understanding 360 feedback is not easy. Figuring out what behaviors to change to increase your effectiveness is virtually impossible to do without someone trained to guide your analysis and reflection.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Ask a person who you work with, who you trust to be honest, to share with you specific situations in which they felt you were not stating your ideas or needs. Have them describe the specific behavior that led them to believe that you were being too submissive. See if you can collect a number of scenarios when you held back and did not voice your opinion.

Take these incidents of submissive behavior and ask yourself why you chose to hold back. Look for the triggers that are causing you to react by pulling in rather than engaging. Are there common themes? Is it a particular person or issue that you are trying to avoid? Look for ways to anticipate these triggers and plan to be more assertive in your response.

Experiment with incrementally pushing the assertive behaviors. Start slow, maybe one or two more assertive statements in the next meeting. Then sit back and look at the results. Most people, who are passive or submissive on an issue or to a person, exaggerate in their own minds the repercussion from being bolder. When you try out new assertive behaviors, you may find that people react positive to the new you, happy to have you join in the discussion rather that pull out. Over time, increase your assertive involvement but be watchful of your comfort zone. Don’t push yourself beyond assertive into aggressive or you will have a different problem to fix the next time feedback comes around.

Questions? Send Alice an email: