Why do so many of us lack the self-confidence and self-belief to seize new challenges or deal with the issues that impact our professional development? I have listened to successful women speak about their amazing and diverse career journeys and then admit that even they aren’t able to negotiate their own salary effectively. What is it that is holding us back? Is it the fear of rejection, is it not ‘owning’ our personal value and self-worth or is it the fear of the practical process? I believe that it lies with the fact that negotiation skills are never explicitly taught and practiced and that also we want to be place an emotional context on a skill that should be totally neutral.

If we accept our right to be (as well as our need) to be seen as, assertive we need to let go of our preconceptions of what assertiveness means. Assertiveness is about being confident and being decisive and clear in our communication. Sometimes we can sabotage ourselves so instead we should look at the practical elements of assertiveness and focus here. Assertiveness is about accepting the potential of compromise to find a middle way that remains true to the values we hold. It is dialogue and therefore we need to consider what is truly possible to achieve or not possible and why.

How can we encourage the next generation to be more comfortable in their assertiveness? In my opinion it is only possible to achieve this if we accept how vital assertive is for all. We must identify how we use our assertiveness and communication skills. By developing and enhancing our own skillsets and being explicit with them and their importance we can lead others to follow us.

The focus is that to be assertive you have to focus on being a more straightforward and clear cut communicator. Offer clear perspective of what you aim to achieve and how you are going to achieve this. You have to set out clearly the benefits to all involved in the process. Be an active listener and let people see you are taking their views on board and open that discussion up by demonstrating how your thoughts coincide and connect with theirs. Consider the concept of how you want to see change achieved and the benefits it brings to all involved. Avoid assigning blame and remove emotion (or perceived emotion) from the process. Don’t look to be liked or disliked in the process because this isn’t about you it’s about the action that needs to be taken and this is emotion free. The second part is to accept rejection or success equally as learning experiences.

By using assertiveness and being comfortable to be seen to be an assertive person it makes it a behaviour that is not only ‘normal’ but an central behaviour of all. We need to think about how we organise our arguments. And to consider the process as being one that needs to be framed neutrally and not seen purely in terms of failure or success. Instead it needs to be seen as a life skill that is developed.

This article was written by Siobhan Qadir. The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The Springboard Consultancy.

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