How to be more assertive when working remotely

Rocks stacked on top of each other on a beach, which represents the concept of how to be assertive.

Being assertive can be a challenge but being assertive virtually can be even harder. It’s all about getting the balance right between coming on too strongly vs not coming on strong enough and when we throw remote work into the mix, it’s hard to picture how we can assert ourselves when we are not even in the same room.

When we assert ourselves in the right way, we can influence people (only for good and never for evil, of course), share our ideas and have them heard, and if we do it in the right way, we can quickly earn others’ respect and trust.

In this blog, we want to share with you why being assertive is important no matter who you are or your job title, explain how we can all be more assertive, as well as 5 ways to assert yourself whether in person or in a virtual meeting, presentation or training session.

What is assertiveness, and why should I assert myself?

Being assertive is all about striking a balance in communication, but there is so much more to being assertive than just the way we speak. It’s about the way we use words and phrases alongside our body language and the tone of our voice.

What are the benefits of being assertive?

1. Self-confidence

One of the biggest benefits of asserting ourselves is that we increase our self-confidence and self-respect. For many of us, we have trained our brains to believe that we’re not that important, but when we begin to honestly express how we feel and what we want, it helps to show our brains how important and valuable we are. This is even more important virtually as many of us are working alone at home, so being self-assured is an amazing route to maintaining motivation and feeling confidence and pride in our work.

2. Be a better leader

Getting the balance of assertiveness right is one challenge I hear from many leaders; it’s an easy one to get wrong – but it’s super important if we want to become that trusted advisor and earn the respect to coach and elevate our teams. In these uncertain times of change, our teams look to their leaders for stability, so being able to assert ourselves virtually when remote working is super important, and completely possible.

3. Reduce stress and anxiety

Did you know that people who are assertive experience less overall anxiety and being assertive can help to lower levels of stress and depression? I feel like until I’d heard this fact, I hadn’t really given it much thought, but now I am aware it totally makes sense. It’s because when we feel able to express our opinions and be heard, there are fewer opportunities for us to become frustrated and this is backed by research which shows us there is a link between being assertive and lower stress levels.

How can I be more assertive? 

We’re not promising that you’ll become assertive overnight because, like all skills, it takes practice. But now you’ve understood why it is important to be assertive, let’s talk about the how!

1. Stop saying sorry 

According to a study published in The European Journal of Social Psychology choosing not to apologise may have psychological benefits. In the study, researchers found participants who refused to say sorry had a greater sense of self-esteem and integrity. Often we say sorry in uncomfortable situations in an attempt to make them better, but actually taking charge or moving on quickly without apologising can defuse the awkward situation and earn you respect from those around you.

2. Learn to say no 

When we say yes to something that we wish we would have said no to, we feel uncomfortable and stressed because we know that we don’t have the time or resources to complete the task at hand. In our 100-minute Assertiveness workshop, we cover 3 ways to say no and I am going to let you in on a little secret and share one with you today!

3. ‘The soft no’

Step 1: Share some empathy and understanding ‘I know that you really need to get this done and appreciate that you need some help’

Step 2: Suggest an alternative ‘well I can’t do what you want which is deliver it by 2pm today, but what I can do is XYZ’

The soft no is a bit cheeky really because it allows us to say no without really saying no, as we are still offering help on our own terms. This allows us to manage expectations.

4. Assertive your body language 

Stand straight, steady, and directly face the people who you are talking to and remember to maintain eye contact. You can practice this body language in person and in a virtual meeting or presentation by looking directly at your camera instead of at your participants or yourself.

Top tip: On many platforms, you can now turn off your own view, so that you will not get distracted looking at yourself.

5. Use ‘I’ statements 

This is a great tip for leaders who want to be more assertive without sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying ‘you’re wrong’ say ‘I disagree’ or instead of saying ‘you need to do this’ say ‘I would like you to help me with this’. By thinking in I’s you can keep your requests simple, clear and specific, and it lets others know where your head is at!

6. Leave negative emotions at the door 

Staying calm in difficult situations is challenging but getting defensive can lead to an aggressive response rather than an assertive response. Before speaking, always think about whether what drives your response is emotional or logical and stick to logic where you can. Also, try not to be dismissive of others’ views. People who are assertive are effective because they possess empathy and respect other opinions and ideas when negotiating.

In this post, we’ve learnt that being assertive not only helps to get you recognized as a respectable leader but can also help to reduce our stress and anxiety levels. Win, win! There are so many more ways to be assertive than the 5 tips above, but I hope this post has helped give you a few great places to start.

Want to help your team of leaders become more assertive?

If you have a team or leadership group who could benefit from becoming more assertive, then look no further than our 100-minute Assertiveness virtual workshop.

We will help your team to overcome the things that stop them speaking up and sharing ideas, say no when they need to and practical steps to apply our techniques in the real world.

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