Speaking up and standing up for yourself can be quite a challenge for some people. For some, being assertive comes across as aggressive and rude: an approach that is both unhelpful and ineffective.

Being assertive is the ability to express your point of view effectively, while at the same time respecting the rights and beliefs of others. While, being rude is an absence of respect for the other person, their feelings, their beliefs and their views, and is characterised by sarcasm, anger, verbal abuse, bullying and intimidation. There is a stark difference between the two, yet assertiveness and rudeness, mistakenly, go hand in hand.

Simply put, assertiveness is being confident without being aggressive. It can take courage especially when confronting your superior. But when it is time muster up the courage to put your foot down and say something, there are many ways to do it, without being rude and still maintaining your professional credibility.

1. Maintain respect
Assertiveness is rooted in mutual respect. When you have respect for the other person’s feelings, you can express your feelings without being aggressive. You can have your say in a way that is assertive but is not demanding, aggressive or mean. It is important to always maintain a level of respect by also considering the other person’s feelings and their point of views.

2. Explain how you feel and what you need by remaining calm (in posture and tone).
Clearly convey your opinions, thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner. Standing up and speaking up for yourself doesn’t mean you need to raise your voice or start an argument. Rather, it means having a clear head, keeping your tone calm and avoiding a heated conversation. If either your feelings, or those of the other person, aren’t being conveyed in a composed manner, then resume the conversation when you are both calm and in control of your emotions. Always be polite, and maintain your composure in both tone and body language.

3. Be straightforward
Introverts or ‘nice’ people are often passive when it comes to asserting their feelings by beating around the bush or sugar coating their position when they need to ask someone to do something. This is an ineffective way to communicate as it makes them seem bendable and easily pushed over. Rather, project self-awareness and an inner strength – this is not being rude; it’s knowing who you are and showing self-respect.

4. Practice assertive nonverbal communication
Communication happens both with words and body language. The manner in which you present your position will impact the way it’s received. Here are some body language techniques to learn:

  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Stand or sit with good posture.
  • Speak with an appropriate tone and volume of voice.
  • Keep your body relaxed and calm.

It is possible to assert yourself and to maintain good working and professional relationships: If you are naturally an outspoken person, remember to always be cognisant of your tone and body language; if you are naturally quieter and less inclined to say how you feel, remember to embrace your inner strength and self-respect. Making sure you are mindful of these things will allow you to express your position positively and without creating offense.