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Being More Assertive: Finding the Sweet Spot

To be successful you must be assertive and confident. Women, however, tend to shy away from being more assertive for fear of being labeled as aggressive.

Assertive women support other women and men

Assertive women follow the 7 Red Shoe Movement Principles

This is similar to the behavior women exhibit when negotiating for themselves. A topic I discussed in the post: 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women.

As a result of avoiding being more assertive, women pay a harsh price— they receive negative evaluations, negative attributions and they miss major career opportunities. Watch this video clip “A Man’s a Boss, a Women’s Bossy” for a series of examples of how similar behaviors are perceived as negative in women and celebrated in men.

To avoid being penalized for behaving in ways that are contrary to feminine stereotypes, women hedge their assertiveness and use fewer competitive tactics. Inevitably, these adjustments have a backlash effect that hinders women’s effectiveness in their careers.

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication style in which people put forward their own needs, ideas, and feelings, while respecting the right of others to do the same. Different levels of assertiveness can be applied depending on the situation.

The challenge is that being more assertive goes against the training most women have received from birth – to defer to men and to stay in the background. This passive stand renders women ineffective and denies them of the opportunity to reach their unlimited potential. And even though as women grow these passive behaviors may change, in a professional setting women still tend to defer to men.

Assertive women quote by Lily Benjamin - Assertive women have found the sweet spot in the communication spectrum

Being more assertive offers enormous career advantages for women.

This accommodating behavior is very subtle and mainly communicated via non-verbal messages, which constitutes 93% of any communication (55% body language and 38% tone.) Several specific examples of body-language messages where women miss the chance to be more assertive are: Smiling too much, nodding in agreement even when they are not, little cooing, supportive noises (“mm hmmm, mm hmmm,”) and presenting a tilted head to signal listening, a pose that is recognizable in puppies.

A common example of how tone sends a message that lacks assertiveness is the odd upward lilt that transforms every statement into an insecure-sounding question.

And to briefly touch on the verbal aspect of communication (which only represents 7% of any communication,) a typical example is the use of ego-soothing expressions such as: “Just following up, or piggy backing, on what YOU said….” and so on.

All of these subtle cues, particularly those involved in non-verbal communication, sway women’s communication style to the passive side of the spectrum. As a result of being passive, women get themselves in a position of violating their own rights.

What is the Difference Between Being More Assertive and Being Aggressive?

Assertive quote by Sharon Anthony Bower

It’s critical to avoid confusing being more assertive with being aggressive.

On the other side of the spectrum lays aggressiveness, which is what happens when people (and in the case of this post, women) veer 180 degrees away from a passive style and they come across as forthright and blunt. Aggressive women try to get the upper hand in the conversation and attempt to punish others usually using a lot of “you…” messages and blame. They are often trying to cover their own feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and powerlessness. These women aim to win even if this means disregarding others’ rights, needs, or feelings. As a result of being aggressive, women get themselves in a position of violating the rights of others.

Take the RSM Communication Style Quiz and see where you are in the spectrum.

Key Distinction Between an Aggressive vs. Assertive Woman

There is a misconception that for women to effectively climb the corporate ladder they have to be like men. They need to dress, speak, gesture, use cursing words, have a masculine style of commanding others, etc. Those who give into that stereotype can be easily spotted when they overdo it and end up “eating their own” – being catty and stepping over other women. These individuals can be their worst enemies, sabotaging and undermining their own authority and effectiveness due to their inability of being assertive.

A good way to distinguish aggressive vs assertive women is that assertive women do not “eat their own;” they are actually very supportive of other women, as well as very supportive of men.

Check out the 7 Principles of the Red Shoe Movement

Assertive women don’t blame others, they own their viewpoints by using “I” statements (“I like,” “I want,” “I don’t want,”) they use cooperative phrases (“What are your thoughts on this?”) they make distinctions between facts and opinions (“My experience is different,” “In my opinion…”) rather than using “should” they make suggestions (“How about”, “Would you like to…”), and they seek others’ ideas (“How does this fit with your ideas?”) Assertive women have found the sweet spot in the communication spectrum.

The Sweet Spot: Being More Assertive and Improving Your Effectiveness

Assertive women are keenly aware of the gender-based effect whereas women are often misunderstood and penalized for behaviors accepted in men. They understand the importance of reading their audience, environment, and circumstances. They are like chameleons able to assess the social situation and adapt accordingly, oscillating within the communication spectrum to be more or less assertive. Notice that I didn’t say, “becoming more or less passive, or even more or less aggressive.” Those are never good options. Effectiveness resides on balancing the degree of assertiveness based on the circumstances.

Assertive definition Merriam Webster dictionary - Confident in behavior and style

Find the sweet spot in the communication spectrum to find your assertive style

Strategies to Find the Sweet Spot

Being assertive is not necessarily easy, but it is a skill that can be learned.

Don’t miss this Harvard Business Review article, How to Be Assertive (without loosing yourself).

Developing your assertiveness style starts with a good understanding of who you are and a belief in the value you bring.

1First, “know thyself”

Awareness is 50% of the change. Clarity of your strengths and opportunities always raise your confidence level, giving you a specific direction on what to work on. Here is an assertiveness assessment you can try.

2Learn assertive communication skills

Communicating assertively will give you confidence, strengthen your relationships, and help you be more effective. When done well, you gain the support and respect of others. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’, just do both taking others into account.

  • Reflect confidence: stand up straight, look people in the eye, and relax
  • Use a firm, but pleasant, tone
  • Check and validate your assumptions; avoid jumping to conclusions
  • Seek to understand other people’s point of views
  • Think in win-win terms and seek win-win situations

3Debunk myths about assertiveness

The Centre for Clinical Intervention trains on three myths that can be used as a tool to help you know the differences between assertiveness and aggressiveness.

Myths about Assertiveness
Myth Reasoning Fact
“Assertiveness is basically the same as being aggressive.” Some people who are aggressive think they are being assertive because they are stating what their needs are. Yes, both assertive and aggressive communication involves stating your needs. There are very important differences, however, in the words, the tone and in the body language used.
“If I am assertive I will get what I want.” Being assertive does not mean that you always get what you want. There is no guaranteed outcome. Being assertive is about expressing yourself in a way that shows respect for your needs and the needs of others. Sometimes this means you get what you want, sometimes you won’t get what you want, and sometimes you will come to a mutually satisfactory compromise.
“If I am assertive I have to be equally assertive in every situation” Understanding how to be assertive, gives you the choice to critically judge the circumstances and appropriately balance your degree of assertiveness. Sometimes, you may realize that you need to adjust the degree of assertiveness in order to be effective. Learning to be assertive is about providing yourself with a choice!

 

Everyone has the ability to learn how to be assertive, or effective when being more assertive than they currently are. The key is to self-monitor and adjust according to the situation, remaining fair and empathetic. Your power comes from your self-assurance and not from intimidation or bullying. When you treat others with such fairness and respect, you get that same treatment in return, you are appreciated, and sought out as a thought leader.

Communication Skills Quiz: A Self-Assessment

Improving communication skills can have a substantial impact on how well you do in your career. Take this communication skills quiz and find out how good your skills are!

What are good communication skills?

Without a doubt, good communication skills are among the most valuable life skills you can possess. (Recruiters agree!) They are the oil that greases every relationship.

Adapt your communication method to your audience. Take the Communication Skills Quiz!!

Adapt your communication method to your audience

Good communication skills involve the ability to craft a message and transmit it clearly so that the recipient understands what you mean and, if appropriate, can act on that information. It’s good to remember, however, that the communication process is a two-way street. It also involves the ability to listen to other people’s messages and discern their meaning. A good communicator not only has the ability to express thoughts and ideas but also to listen carefully to the messages of others.

The basic communication skills

Before you take this communication skills quiz let’s go over the basics: speaking, writing and listening skills. You may have great writing skills but not do so well when trying to convey your ideas in person. Or you may be able to communicate with large audiences but have trouble when it comes to listening skills. Your goal should be to attain a balance between all aspects of communication. (And obviously, a good way to measure how close you are to this goal is to take this communication skills quiz.)

Elements involved in the communication process

In a great article, Mind Tools, an online platform that offers wonderful career tools, explains the eight elements involved in the communication process. This is a great starting point for a conversation about improving communication skills.

The 8 Elements of Communication Process | Improving your communication skills

In this communication skills quiz we help you test the various elements of communication

Source: The person originating the message. In this case, you.

Message: The content you want to communicate.

Encoding: The process of transferring the information in a form that can be decoded by the receiver.

Channel: Method you use to communicate: Telephone, in person, video conferencing, email, etc.

Decoding: Understanding the content of the communication, unpacking the meaning.

Receiver: The individual or individuals to whom you deliver the message (and others who may receive it even if they weren’t the intended receiver.) As Mind Tools wisely points out, each of these receivers comes into the communication equation with their own set of ideas, experiences, and feelings that affect their ability to understand the message. You should always take this into consideration when crafting your message.

Feedback: It’s the information that comes back from your audience via verbal and nonverbal reactions.

Context: The situation in which your message is delivered.

Understanding these different elements can be useful in identifying where there might be a breakdown in communication. For example, given the lack of context, misunderstandings often take place via email or text message. As a rule, the moment you realize someone misinterprets something you said (mistaking humor for criticism, for instance) you should pick up the phone and clarify your intent. Context is easier established face-to-face where the other person can see your expression and gestures and perceive your tone of voice.

In addition, dissecting the communication process can provide insights on how you could communicate more effectively. If you notice that the lack of context often gets you in trouble, next time you could decide to provide more context in your written communications.

Improving communication skills can be very useful for career advancement

Improving communication skills can be very useful for career advancement

How to communicate effectively

Learning how to communicate effectively in the workplace can be the difference between having a great career or a mediocre one. As a matter of fact, in most cases, good communication skills are more important than intelligence. The difficulty arises, however, when you are not aware of your own shortcomings— something we are hoping to solve by offering this communication skills quiz.

Over the past few years, there has been a substantial increase in communication methods (channels.) Yet there’s little in terms of instruction on how to update your communication skills to fit the various new modalities. For instance, since the advent of text messaging, emoticons have replaced the non-verbal messages humans pass between each other during in-person interactions. But have you ever wondered if using a winky face on an email to a company executive is appropriate? How do you figure out how to communicate effectively without putting your job at risk?

Using informal language or an informal communication method to connect with a senior executive could be counterproductive. Photo Credit: imgarcade.com

Using informal language or an informal communication method to connect with a senior executive could be counterproductive.
Photo Credit: imgarcade.com

Why improving communication skills is key for career growth

It’s a fact that we all have different communication styles, and in general women have an altogether different style than men. This can lead to misunderstandings. (Think about women being called “too emotional” because they express their feelings about a decision that angers them.)

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for women to have difficulty advancing in their careers due to the mere fact that they express themselves differently. Improving communication skills can help you convey your message in a way that it is heard. And this doesn’t mean you have to forgo your style to adopt a masculine style. Only that improving communication skills can contribute to your messages being decoded the way you intended.

So let’s get to it. Take the communication skills quiz now, and find out how great your communication skills are. With the results, you will receive additional ideas on how to communicate more effectively.

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21 Famous and Funny Communication Quotes. Share Away!

We all love communication quotes. Heck! We all love quotes, period. We share with you how to pick the right one to make light of a mishap or to help improve the flow of communication in the workplace, and 21 fabulous communication quotes!!!

After the success of our communication skills quiz, and the self-esteem quotes and women supporting women quotes, we felt it was time to bring you the best communication quotes. To inspire you, we selected the ones that zero- in on good and bad communication skills.

Because things can easily be misunderstood, you must carefully craft your messages #communication skills | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

Because things can easily be misunderstood, you must carefully craft your messages

The power of famous and funny communication quotes

Famous and funny communication quotes offer certain universal truths we could all live by. Just as a poem can capture an idea that can often be hard to put into regular words, communication quotes can be a wonderful vehicle to get a message across. They could be useful to cheer you and your colleagues up but also to shed light into what causes miscommunication in the workplace. Sometimes, by bringing the point of view of a beloved author, scientist, or comedian it’s easier to lighten the mood and get people to laugh together, a good first step to better communication in the workplace.

How to use communication quotes to your advantage

Sharing communication quotes via social media is a subtle way to contribute to the improvement of communication skills of a specific person or a group. Without openly alluding to a specific situation, you can get the idea across and even get friends and colleagues to have a conversation about the topic.

It's easy to fall under the illusion that your message was understood. So always verify if that's so! | Communication Skills

It’s easy to fall under the illusion that your message was understood. So always verify if that’s so!

You could also use communication quotes as icebreakers either during presentations or small department meetings. Their universal appeal and insightfulness are perfect to help people relax with each other.

Good grammar is key for excellent communication to take place | Photo Credit: EileenLonergan.Com

Good grammar is key for excellent communication to take place
Photo Credit: EileenLonergan.Com

If you are in a leadership position, you may want to invite company associates to submit their own quotes related to communication in the workplace. You can then post the best ones on bulletin boards, in the company’s newsletter, or even share them via your company’s social media platform. It’s a playful way to generate engagement while underscoring good communication in the workplace.

Control freak funny communication quote | Photo Credit: Pnfirefastmovement.blogspot.com

Control freak funny communication quote | Photo Credit: Pnfirefastmovement.blogspot.com

Lastly, you could use communication quotes in communication skills workshops. In this case, you’d use them to trigger a discussion of specific communication skills, namely, listening, speaking or writing.

Communication skills - Lily Tomlin famous and funny communication quotes

How specific are you in your communications? Can people tell exactly what you want?

And here’s our challenge: Send us your communication quotes and we will feature the best ones in a future post!

Don't you text me in that tone of voice!

Can you really tell people’s tone via text message? When in doubt, pick up the phone.

 

Super funny communication quotes

Use humorous quotes as icebreakers and to lighten the mood.
Photo Credit: play.google.com

 

Sometimes is better to stick to one or two key messages so people remember them! | Communication in the workplace

Sometimes is better to stick to one or two key messages so people remember them!

Prioritizing is a critical component of communications. Don't let urgent things get always in the way of discussing what's important. Thank you Quino for Mafalda! | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

Prioritizing is a critical component of communications. Don’t let urgent things get always in the way of discussing what’s important.
Thank you Quino for Mafalda!

 

Editing is even more important than writing. Great communication skills call for reviewing all your communication before it goes out. | Ernest Hemingway | 21 famous and funny communication skills quotes

Editing is even more important than writing. Great communication skills call for reviewing all your communication before it goes out.

 

This one is plain funny | 21 famous and funny communication quotes | Improving your grammar and spelling are ways to improve communication in the workplace Photo Credit: ShoeBoxBlog.com

Improving your grammar and spelling are ways to improve communication in the workplace Photo Credit: ShoeBoxBlog.com

 

Don't raise your voice improve your argument | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

Sharpen your message so people understand exactly what you mean.

 

Being able to question yourself is a healthy way to live your life! | Oscar Wilde | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

Being able to question yourself is a healthy way to live your life!

 

LOL | 21 famous and funny communication quotes | Credit: Funnsmeh.com

Using funny communication quotes as icebreakers is a great way to lighten the mood and help people relax
Credit: Funnsmeh.com

 

Using humor smartly is a good way to flaunt good communication skills in the workplace

Using humor smartly is a good way to flaunt good communication skills in the workplace

By all means, meet in person when there's any chance of a misunderstanding! Photo Credit: SomeECards | | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

By all means, meet in person when there’s any chance of a misunderstanding! Photo Credit: SomeECards

Some wise communication rules: avoid spreading rumors, eavesdropping, and spying on people. | See no evil | 21 famous and funny communication quotes

Some wise communication rules: avoid spreading rumors, eavesdropping, and spying on people.

 

Expressing your emotions is okay. Only make sure you do so in a way that your audience understands the message. | Margaret Thatcher quote

Expressing your emotions is okay. Only make sure you do so in a way that your audience understands the message.

 

Too funny | 21 famous and funny communication quotes | Photo Credit: GInavalley.com

Are you really communicating?
Photo Credit: GInavalley.com

Grammar, spelling, it usually comes down to that! Photo Credit: blog.ivman.com

Grammar, spelling, it usually comes down to that!
Photo Credit: blog.ivman.com

We love Anne Morrow Lindbergh's comparison, don't you?

We love Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s comparison, don’t you?

 

How Good Are Your Communication Skills?

By Mariela Dabbah

I never met anyone who openly admits to having bad communication skills. We all think we communicate just fine, thank you very much. But if you often encounter situations where others didn’t understand what you asked them to do, or you missed your colleague’s cue to keep something to yourself, then you might need to question your communication skills. And because communication is a two way street, you can’t focus only on what you communicate but also on what others communicate. How much you pick up from what others say is as much a part of your communication skills as when you speak yourself. Today, however, I only approach the topic of communication skills from the perspective of you as the initiator of the communication.

Outstanding communication skills guarantee high visibility

Outstanding communication skills guarantee high visibility

Communication Skills Primer

When evaluating your communication skills, you want to zero-in on speaking, listening, writing and what I call relational skills — the kind of skills needed to establish and maintain strong relationships which include: courtesy, diplomacy, timeliness, responsiveness, and so on. (The kind missing in people who never answer e-mails and only write to you when they need something.) You may have great oral and written communication skills but very poor relational skills. Eventually, this will seriously affect your relationships even when everyone understands what you have to say.

How to improve english communication skills

If English is your second language the question of how good your communication skills are is a concern you should take seriously. Every time you put something in writing, weather it’s a Power Point presentation or an email to a client, you must double check that it’s formulated properly. Despite the fact that texting has made spelling mistakes a daily nuisance with which we’ve learned to cope, there’s sill very little room for mistakes in the workplace. Recently, I was asked to join a start-up company in what sounded like a promising project. After reviewing their introductory materials I turned it down. The reason? The paperwork was so poorly written that it made me think that the team was second rate. If that was the way in which they presented their project, I couldn’t imagine how the project would be executed.

English is my second language and I’m constantly aware of how that may affect my communication skills. When I present publicly I make fun of the fact that I’m prepositionally-challenged and that oftentimes I don’t get a popular saying completely right. Humor is a great tool to engage my audience. But I never take my writing lightly and everything that leaves my desk is edited by a native English-speaking editor. I value my brand too much to allow my written communications skills to tarnish it. You may not be as lucky as I am to have that editor be one of your closest friends, but I highly recommend that, if English is your second language. you partner with a colleague who can review your most important documents before you send them out.

Communication skills at the workplace: For immigrants, having optimal communication skills is a valid concern

For immigrants, having optimal communication skills is a valid concern

Equally important is to hone your oral communications skills. Can you express your thoughts clearly and concisely providing enough context while avoiding extraneous matter? Are your suggestions understood? If you find that you have trouble turning your thoughts into words that others can follow, ask a friend to work with you. Practice putting simple ideas into words, and share them with your friend. Get feedback. Repeat. You may also need to get a coach to help you along. If your difficulty arises when you have to speak in front of a group, then join a Toastmasters Club where they’ll prepare you for public speaking in any environment. It will definitely boost your confidence.

Accents are fine as long as they don’t interfere with getting your message across. If yours does, slow down your speech to make comprehension easier and think about signing up for an accent reduction course.  But consider that, in most cases, having an accent can be a great advantage. Not only does it help you stand out and be remembered, but in many cases it forces people to pay additional attention to you.

Women Must Learn to Leverage their Unique Communication Skills

Women, who often have a distinctively different style than men, can benefit from understanding how to take advantage of this difference. Ask yourself: What unique communication skills do I bring to the table? How can I leverage those particular traits to better position myself? Being aware of your assets will help you use them to your advantage.

For instance, we are generally known for being good listeners, consensus builders, and empathetic. So you could request to be part of a high-stakes negotiation team, given that you have all the required communication skills to succeed.

Women must leverage their distinct communication style

Women must leverage their distinct communication style

As women we tend to place higher value on relationships and consequently become more emotionally involved with those around us. (This is an extra valuable asset in workplaces dominated by bottom-line mentality because, in the end, the bottom-line alone doesn’t motivate people to go to work.) In difficult situations, when you become angry, frustrated, annoyed, and so on, being aware of any tendencies to express your emotions openly will help you modulate your emotional response. And I said “modulate” not “eliminate.” Emotional responses are important because they show you care about the issue at hand, about your organization, about people. If you want your message to get across, however, modulation is the key. Why? First, when you are emotional your voice pitch is likely to become higher than usual making you in turn harder to understand. Second, depending on your audience, if they are not used to public displays of emotion they might not know what to make of it. (Is she out of control? Will she be able to carry out this project?)

Take advantage of the emotion to reveal who you are. Try to calm down by breathing through your stomach a few times to regain your regular voice pitch. Then explain why you feel that way. Explain that you care. Explain that what happened is unacceptable, wrong, unfair, etc. And always keep in mind that this modulation should serve one purpose only: to get your message across. Not to change who you are or your communication style.

Communication skills for women: great tips

Communication skills for women

Great Communication Skills and Latinas

Learning to modulate aspects of your communication style is particularly important for Latinas. Passion is an inherent part of the Latino culture and of who we are. It lets people know what’s important to us. So learning to turn up or down the volume of your passion according to your audience is an effective way to be heard. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop caring. It just means I modulate the level of the passion with which I express myself depending on who’s listening. That way they can hear what I have to say.

The main thing to remember is that one of the secrets of feeling happier at work is to respect your style. Rather than imitate someone else’s, you must first recognize your own style. You must know what makes you, you. Then, and only then, can you fine-tune your communication skills by slightly adjusting details to make your message clearer.