How To Be More Assertive In Your Business
Many of my coaching clients struggle with how to be more assertive because they are afraid of being seen as rude, mean or unkind. The truth is you can be assertive and be respected without being aggressive. Understanding how to be more assertive is also a skill that is necessary in business and a big part of cultivating self-worth.
If we don’t learn how to be more assertive in asking for what we want then we’ll rarely get it. Furthermore lack of assertiveness shows up in other forms such as having loose boundaries and letting people take advantage of you.
Business—and abundance in general—is the art of balancing giving and receiving.
If we’re constantly giving without receiving appropriately in return (for example not setting boundaries with clients or not asking for the money we think we deserve), then we put ourselves in a position where we become depleted.
I want to be very clear here that “giving to charities/causes” or “giving without receiving because you truly want to” is different. You’re doing this from an altruistic standpoint. What I am saying is this doesn’t work in business. You can’t constantly give without receiving because you won’t be able to pay your bills.
That being said, if you want to use your business for altruistic motives other than helping your clients and customers, you can set limits for pro-bono work or donate a part of the proceeds to a cause you are passionate about. Now back to assertiveness. I recently coached about 50 women one-on-one around issues within their businesses. The common ground for many of them was a lack of assertiveness. In their case, not knowing how to be more assertive looked like being overworked and underpaid.
When I asked them about creating company policies, charging more money or being pickier with the time they had available to clients, they would immediately freeze from the discomfort. They often times cited not wanting to seem rude or unappreciative of their clients, however they also noticed that whatever they’d been doing up until that point was simply not working anymore. They no longer wanted to feel like they were being taken advantage of.
Learn how to be more assertive in your business using these tips:
If you happen to find yourself in the above-mentioned situation, use the tips outlined in this article to help you start becoming not only more comfortable with being assertive, but also understanding how to be more assertive in your business as well.
1. Difference between being assertive, being aggressive and being passive
Most people mistake being assertive with being aggressive, when nothing could be further from the truth. This then leads them to behave passively.
The example below gives you a clear picture of the difference between the three of them.
- Assertive: Wants to hurt no one, including self
- Aggressive: Will hurt others to avoid hurting self
- Passive: Hurts self in order to avoid hurting others
The key difference is that assertiveness is inclusive, meaning they want all parties involved to be happy, including themselves. While sometimes this may require disappointing someone else, you’re not doing it with the intention of hurting them as you would if you were being aggressive.
The assertive person understands that in order to take care of others, they must also take care of themselves. This often times gets misconstrued as being selfish, but as financial expert Barbara Stanny points out, it’s actually being self-full because you cannot possibly give from an empty cup.
2. Set limits with your time
This was a lesson in how to be more assertive that I learned the hard way back when I worked in recruiting. It’s also a lesson I recently had to learn yet again in my own business. If you don’t set limits on your time, your calendar is essentially a free for all and sets you up for being tired, overworked and stressed.
For instance, I taught an online class for an organization of entrepreneurial women where I then invited them for free consultations. Because I had not set limits on my time, I had not gone into my calendar to make sure to add some padding in between meetings for breaks. The end result was that I was booked with seven meetings a day for three weeks straight and hadn’t even thought to give myself time to eat a snack or go to the bathroom.
Needless to say, at the end of those three weeks my body crashed and I got sick. The end result being that I couldn’t handle what I needed to in my business because I hadn’t properly taken care of myself.
The moral of the story is this: make sure to give yourself time and set limits on your calendar so that you have some space to re-energize.
3. Create company policies
Company policies will help you act accordingly should anyone try to test your boundaries. Some examples of company policies include:
- Late fees on payments
- Service fees for payment plans
- Cancellation policy
- Refund policy
- Time availability
- How much access people have to you
You should have these policies clearly stated in the agreement and make them known before starting to work with someone. In some cases, policies even keep people from misbehaving and taking advantage in order to avoid a consequence.
4. Ask for what you want
The most difficult part about how to be more assertive for most people is when it comes time to ask for what they want. For example, negotiations and sales may be times when you need to clearly ask for what you want. Truthfully, it is a very uncomfortable habit to take on if you’re not accustomed to it. The good news is that with practice it becomes much easier.
You must remember that you are providing value into the world and it’s more than fair to receive that value back in return in the form of money. At the end of the day, asking for what you want is simply asking for a fair exchange of value. There is nothing slimy or aggressive about that. Knowing how to be more assertive is actually knowing how best to serve your market, without destroying your self in the process.