What are the disadvantages of assertiveness

7 tips for better assertiveness in everyday working life

Salary negotiations, leadership, teamwork, business partnerships - many situations in everyday work require assertiveness. We give tips

To be able to assert oneself - even against resistance, if need be, but without unnecessarily tearing trenches: this is firstly a secret of success and secondly it can be learned. We have specific tips for more assertiveness in everyday working life.

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Salary negotiations, employee management, teamwork, business partnerships - many situations in everyday work require assertiveness in order to be able to successfully represent your own interests or the interests of your company. What to do if you are not assertive? How can you learn to assert yourself? What is actually behind this ability? We want to provide answers to these questions here - simple and practical.

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What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to defend one's own opinion, concept or idea against resistance in order to achieve a certain goal.

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However, meaningful assertiveness does not consist in asserting one's own opinion against all logic and with all violence. Rather, you have to maintain the difficult but important balance between giving in and asserting yourself in everyday life. It's not just about learning assertiveness in and of itself, you also need to have the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis whether it makes sense to assert yourself or not.

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For a company, a balanced assertiveness of the employees always means a gain in competitiveness. For you personally, good assertiveness in everyday work means the opportunity to really bring your own talents and skills to your company. The result is professional success and greater satisfaction.

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Assertiveness in everyday work

Assertiveness is of crucial importance in everyday professional life - in a wide variety of situations:

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  • For staff management:

    You can recognize a good manager by their balanced assertiveness. A boss must of course be able to turn his or her own ideas and goals into reality. He or she should not be a "tough bone", trump employees with rank and rhetoric and view any giving in as a defeat, because that destroys the motivation of the employees. Neither should a boss be "addicted to harmony", incapable of making clear demands and, if necessary, of making unpopular decisions. Being the boss means seeing disputes as an opportunity for progress.

    If the boss can assert himself, but with moderation, this has an immensely positive effect on the working atmosphere and the creativity of the employees: Critical discussions with employees become more effective, tasks and work are delegated more effectively, but praise and recognition are also conveyed more clearly.

  • In dealing with business partners:

    The ability to successfully represent one's own interests is also crucial when dealing with business partners - but here, too, balance is required. In the long run, the success of a business partnership is measured by the fact that both Entrepreneurs gain an advantage in their business activities, so a "win-win situation" comes about.

    This usually requires negotiations, after all, prices, delivery times and the like have to be negotiated - ideally in such a way that both sides are satisfied with the agreement. In case of doubt, however, it is important to persistently pursue your own interests, because the business partner also has his own interests in mind. Assertiveness is required at such moments.

    The challenge is to stubbornly defend the negotiation points, which are of crucial importance for your own company, without offending your business partner. Compromise and accommodation on less important negotiation points is inevitable. A good businessman goes one step further: from the outset, he keeps an eye on the interests of his business partner and tries to fulfill them as far as possible without losing sight of his own interests.

  • When working in a team:

    Real innovations are usually developed by teams. The better the team works together, the better the result. If team members are constantly "underwhelmed", crucial ideas are often lost. Conversely, team members who lack the ability to give in to appropriate situations can dominate a group too much and thereby limit the wealth of ideas and demotivate other team members.

    A good team leader with strong leadership skills is necessary to keep a team together. It slows down the more dominant employees and encourages the reluctant employees so that all ideas can flow in. Part of his management role is also to promote the assertiveness of "weak" team members.

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Small checklist for self-assessment: "How about my assertiveness?"

Your gut instinct is likely to tell you exactly whether you lack assertiveness or not. However, you can answer this with specific questions in the following quick test. Please answer as spontaneously as possible without thinking long:

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Task: questions about self-assessment

  1. Do I take myself as seriously as other people?

  2. Do I have the right to speak when there are group discussions or discussions on topics that I know about?

  3. In conflict situations, am I able to express my own opinion calmly and objectively, even in the event of loud resistance, without giving in too quickly?

  4. Do I submit my ideas without fear of rejection or do I sometimes refrain from making suggestions because I expect to be unsuccessful anyway?

  5. Am I able to spontaneously list four strengths of my personality?

  6. Can I accept praise and appreciation and be happy about it without involuntarily belittling myself or being humiliated in the reaction?

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The evaluation of the self-examination is very simple: The less you ask with a clear "Yes!" answer, the worse it is for you to assert yourself.

The good news is that it is up to you to change that. You can strengthen your assertiveness. To this end, we want to list seven pieces of advice in the next section that you can apply well in everyday life.

Please be patient with yourself, changes to your own personality simply take time. It is better to think in months than in days: you have to work patiently and constantly on your own weaknesses.

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7 tips for assertiveness

Let's consider an example:

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As a buyer in a smaller company, you have the task of purchasing high-quality raw materials and tools at the best possible price-performance ratio. Your head of department has already announced an appraisal interview to set your goals for the next quarter. You should think in advance which goal might be appropriate.

Of course, you want to take this opportunity and show your boss that you are able to set yourself a sensible goal - and to defend it appropriately in front of him.

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Of course, there are many different things you need to consider when doing such a task. But now we want to concentrate on the details where assertiveness is important.

  • Tip 1: aim for realistic and achievable goals

    Goals are doomed to fail if they are not realistic. If you have just finished your education and are headed straight for the goal of becoming a business manager, even the best assertiveness will not lead you to success.

    It would be just as unrealistic, for example, as a buyer of a small business in price negotiations with a supplier to try to achieve the lowest purchase price ever in the industry. The goal is unattainably high. In fact, many people fail in their lives not because of a lack of assertiveness, but because of the wrong goals.

    So look for an achievable but challenging goal. It shouldn't be pegged too high or too low. You should find it a demanding challenge, but not "Mount Everest". Tactical considerations also play a role: you should make sure that achieving the goal is at least largely in your hands and that the success is easily measurable.

    In relation to our example: The goal of a buyer to reduce the average purchase price by two percent in the next quarter is much better than being selected as customer of the month with at least three suppliers.

    One could almost say that the first tip is to assert yourself against your own gut instinct - at least when it is striving for unattainable goals that must be filtered and corrected by the mind.

  • Tip 2: convince with reasonable arguments

    So you have set yourself an achievable goal - you want to reduce the average purchase price by two percent in the next quarter. Now you have to convince your boss of this with reasonable arguments. Well-thought-out communication is part of being assertive. You have to think in advance about which arguments best support a situation. Most of the time, it is better to present two or three main arguments well than to shower the other person with an abundance of many small arguments that are poorly substantiated.

    The main arguments should be supported by facts that are reasonable and understandable. For example: "Last year in the same quarter we reduced our purchase prices by 1.6%", and "I have identified a dozen suppliers from whom we can receive volume discounts by purchasing larger quantities."

    In this way we build a chain of arguments in order to assert ourselves in our goal setting. It answers the crucial questions in a logical order: Which one Destination do i propose? Why do I propose this goal? How do I intend to achieve the goal?

  • Tip 3: The correct appearance - it starts with the posture

    You have your goal, you have prepared well, and you know what to say. While you are on your way to becoming head of department, we still think about your appearance - a point that is often underestimated. Because the inner attitude of a person is unconsciously transmitted to the outside via many small signals.

    An insecure posture is just as bad as an overly secure one. In both cases it will be more difficult to assert oneself, as neither signalizes real sovereignty. You shouldn't suggest to the head of department that you are pretending to be on the outside but not really convinced of your goal on the inside.

    • Signals of uncertainty are, for example: looking at the floor, smiling embarrassed, playing around with the ballpoint pen, rubbing your hands nervously, making yourself small, keeping the physical distance to the boss large

    • Signals for over-security are, for example: stare, arrogant look, jerky movements, make yourself taller, raise your head and nose high, minimize the spatial distance to the boss

    • Signals for sovereignty and self-confidence: frequent but not uninterrupted eye contact, facial expression adapted to the situation, calm and controlled gestures, upright posture, head straight forward, standing calmly, feet a little apart, when sitting, filling the seat without rocking, pleasant Keep a distance from the boss

    In view of the signals described, does your own demeanor seem too uncertain or over-confident? Please don't be discouraged. Top managers and executives have also been working on appropriate techniques and personality traits for years.

    In any case, it makes little sense if you try to only switch off the signals of under- or over-security. It is much more important for your assertiveness to be internal attitude to correct, which is then penetrated to the outside. The next tip shows how you can do this.

  • Tip 4: hit the right note

    You probably know that from your own experience: For the outcome of a conversation, not only the content level is decisive, the relationship level, i.e. the interpersonal relationship between two or more people during a conversation, is often even more important.

    That is why it is important that we strengthen the relationship level for the conversation with your head of department through a positive inner attitude. How does this work?

    Always consider your counterpart to be of equal value, even if he or she is below or above you in the department hierarchy. Don't let hierarchy flow into your behavior towards anyone. Those who manage to treat subordinates and superiors with respect but without submission will find it much easier to strike a good note in conversations.

    With regard to our conversation, this means that we respect the authority of our department head, but still express our own opinion. Assertiveness means persistently representing your own interests - but without becoming self-centered, i.e. at the same time responding fairly to others. We should try to speak to the boss in a friendly and respectful manner, to receive criticism just as confidently as praise - and also to express praise and criticism to the boss where it makes sense - but in an appropriate way.

  • Tip 5: Make statements clear and precise

    So by now you have set yourself a realistic goal, thought through sensible arguments and built up a balanced inner attitude that is reflected in your body language and your speaking behavior. You have now reached your head of department and sit down to talk to him.

    Now it is important to deliver clear, clear statements during the conversation. Spongy formulations create misunderstandings and signal uncertainty. Statements like: "Perhaps the purchase prices would have to be reduced in the near future, if it can be made possible somehow" or "Maybe one could think about whether we should try to lower the purchase prices", won't really impress your boss.

    Formulate short sentences and make clear statements. If you don't use foreign words on purpose in order to appear educated, stay natural. First, make a statement and directly support it with an argument, such as: "I would like to set myself the goal of lowering our average purchase prices by 2% in the next quarter. The fact that we achieved a cost reduction of 1.6% in the previous year shows that 2% is quite realistic." In the first sentence we make the basic statement, which is supported by arguments in the second sentence.

    The logical reasoning makes it practically impossible for your counterpart to simply wipe your statement away. Your head of department may still want to set a different goal for you, which of course as a superior is also his or her right. In any case, you have already proven your competence through your professional appearance and arguments.

  • Tip 6: Positive formulations build on

    It is up to you to decide whether you want to make your boss aware of the disadvantages and negative aspects of your proposal or whether you should clearly emphasize the advantages. This definitely has a decisive effect on the emotions of the other person. With the following sample statements, please put yourself in the shoes of your boss and think about which sentence of the following pairs of sentences would work better on you:

    • "I don't know whether a cost reduction of 1.6% last year can be surpassed." or "I will calculate exactly whether the 1.6% cost reduction of the previous year can be exceeded and I will inform you of the result."

    • "The planned cost reduction cannot be achieved by the end of the next quarter.", or "By the end of the quarter after next, the planned cost reductions could definitely be achieved."

    • "I cannot promise you that I will achieve my quarterly goal." or "I will do my best to achieve the quarterly target."

    Positive statements generate positive emotions and favor the consent of the other person. And that is precisely why the ability to formulate positively is an important detail for being able to assert yourself.

  • Tip 7: Listening carefully is essential

    A good listener has a twofold advantage in conversations: firstly, he knows the opinions and views of the other person and, secondly, by letting the other person finish and listening carefully, he creates a good atmosphere for discussion.

    Knowing the other person's point of view has various advantages in terms of assertiveness. For example, it could happen during the employee interview with your boss that he brings up an objection, such as: For example: "I do not think that you will get the purchase prices in the next quarter reduced by more than the previous year's value."

    A good listener now signals understanding first. This does not mean that you have to agree on the content perspective, but rather that you show an understanding of his view of things. In addition, a good listener asks specific questions to find out the reasons for the objection. So tell your head of department: "I can understand that you find the goal very demanding. Why do you think that I will not achieve the goal?"

    Your department head replies: "How do you intend to reduce the average purchase prices by 0.4% more than in the previous year when the economy has deteriorated and our suppliers have less leeway than last year?" And then you have the decisive advantage back on your side, because you can refute the objection through the knowledge gained from the boss's statement.

    It is still important to remain calm and objective. Maybe you could answer: "You are of course right, the economy was fundamentally better last year. That is why I intend to achieve some of the price reductions not through pure price trading, but through volume discounts."

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A second self-test - with implementation of the rules

A healthy, balanced assertiveness is an asset for your private and professional life alike. This is the only way you can present yourself with weight and stability. Let's briefly repeat the essential points that make for good assertiveness.

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Task: "Control questions" on a situation that you have experienced yourself

In order to really benefit from the tips just given, you have to relate them to your own, very personal situation.

Remember a specific, as typical as possible, situation from your everyday working life in which you were unable to assert yourself. To do this, ask yourself the following questions. Answer self-critically and honestly, but without reproaching yourself, as objectively as possible. If you want, you can of course play the whole thing through for different situations.

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The questions:

  • Did you have a clear, realistic and achievable goal there? Which one If not, what could have been your goal?

    A realistic goal is for the challenge to be demanding, but still achievable. Such a goal is the basis for a meaningful implementation in the later course of action.

  • Did you have good arguments and a compelling argument? What did she look like?

    A chain of arguments will convince the other party that you know what you are talking about and that you have thought through your proposal well. Arguments must be as simple and logical as possible.

  • How did you perform? How was your posture? What is your posture typically like in such situations? Were you afraid of the argument? Was the conversation uncomfortable for you from the start?

    A balanced posture rounds off the overall picture. If you are not behind your arguments internally, this is usually visible - through insecure or overconfident facial expressions.

  • How much did the hierarchy difference to the other person at the time influence your demeanor and tone?

    A respectful, friendly tone is important for a conversation with good results - but do not pile too deep and always appear aware of your own strengths and expertise!

  • Were your statements and replies clearly worded at the time, or did you try to pack too many details into your statements or get lost in subordinate clauses?

    Clear and clear statements signal security. It is important to avoid vague formulations and, as far as possible, to justify claims immediately with an argument.

  • Did you formulate it positively or did you subconsciously fall into negative ways of presenting it?

    People who let others - consciously or unconsciously - look to positive aspects can assert themselves much more easily.

  • And: did you really listen yourself? What have you missed about your counterpart and their reactions and motives?

    Good listening allows you to understand what makes the other person "tick". In this way, you can constructively overcome his objections instead of being angry or reacting disappointed.

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Instead of a conclusion: a few quotes on the subject of "assertiveness"

  • "If you want to get your way, you have to speak softly." (Jean Giraudoux)

  • "It is not difficult to convince anyone who is convinced." (Friedrich Schiller)

  • "The point is not to go through the wall with your head, but to find the door with your eyes." (Werner from Siemens)

  • "If the look can't convince, don't convince the lip." (Franz Grillparzer)

  • "Anyone who seemed kind for a while and now wants to get tough in order to achieve something has to do it with the appropriate transitions and seize the opportunities in such a way that, before he loses his old friends as a result of the change in his being, he already has so many has won new ones so that his power does not suffer any loss, otherwise he will be seen through and perish without a friend. " (Niccolo Machiavelli)

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You can find many more ideas and insights for more assertiveness in the book "Sich durchzüge" by Susanne Dölz and Carmen Kauffmann, Haufe-Verlag 2008, ISBN 978-3448091007, 6.90 EUR. I also owe this book some suggestions for this contribution.