Assertiveness is an essential skill for any EA –  to gain respect, to hold your own in a corporate environment, to resolve conflicts and to generally get things done.  Assertiveness is stating clearly what you think, feel and want – and striking that perfect balance of confidence without being overly aggressive, rude or bossy, nor too passive.  

Why? Better working relationships with your boss and peers, less build up of anger/resentment, reduced stress and, of course, demonstrating respect for yourself and others.  

Here are my top tips to become an “Assertive Assistant”:  

  • Say what’s on your mind 

I’ve worked with some bosses who I referred to as “high-dependency cases”. Communication is vital in these working relationships.  Think how much time you spend with people from work.  You should always be able to say what you feel. Otherwise, tension and resentment build up. People aren’t mind readers – they won’t understand what’s going on unless you say something!    

For example, “when you do ABC, it makes me feel like XYZ.  I want to resolve that so we can both enjoy working together all of the time”.  

It’s important to understand the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Insulting people, raising your voice or undermining them in some way isn’t being assertive.  You can get your point across without being overbearing and disrespectful.   

By being assertive, you are more likely to be seen as competent, confident and ultimately more successful.  

  • The art of saying no! 

Throughout your career, there will always be people who make unreasonable requests, crash your personal time and just wander into your office uninvited. There are times when it is ok to say no.  You’re not rejecting them personally, just politely refusing a request.  

State your position clearly and with confidence – and, if you can, try to find a solution to their request.  For example, “I can’t work late tonight as I have arrangements with my family, however, as it’s so important I am willing to come in early tomorrow to help”.  Or, “I can’t assist with that at the moment as I have an urgent job to finish, but I’d be happy to help once this task is completed”.   

  • Dealing with sarcastic colleagues 

Sarcasm… the lowest form of wit! Don’t ignore it – deal with it directly.  The sarcastic person will often defend themselves by passing off their comment as a joke.  Repeat their hilarious comment back to them, or ask them to repeat it to you. Try saying something like, “if you have a concern about XYZ, I’m happy to discuss it with you”.  If nothing else, they’ll think twice before doing it again.  

  • Speak strongly and with confidence 

Nervous people will often babble when trying to communicate something – I’ve done it many a time! The best way to appear confident is to speak slowly.  Keep it simple and concise.  

You could consider using the following phrases: 

  • Change “you are” to “my perception is” 
  • “Yes but” to “yes and”. 
  • “You annoy me when” to “I feel like this when”.
  • “You should” to “I need”.   

Good luck with your assertive endeavours! Don’t forget to join our Facebook group here to pass on any tips of your own, or to share any stories.