Progressive thinking: be a gentle giant

When two people have similar skills and experience, it’s often the more
assertive one who gets promoted.

Some people confuse assertiveness with being aggressive, however.
Assertiveness is the ability to stand up for your views and influence what
happens. Aggression, on the other hand, is getting your own way by bullying. It
gets results, but at what cost? You don’t have to be ruthless to be powerful.

Conflict is sometimes inevitable. There will be times when someone wants
something you don’t. When that happens, you have three options: give in; demand
your own way; or negotiate.

Don’t get personal. If you have to criticise or complain, comment on the
behaviour rather than attacking the person. Suggest a behaviour change and be
willing to compromise.

Focus on positives. State what you want, rather than complaining about
negatives. For example: ‘I prefer it when you’re courteous,’ rather than,
‘you’re a rude, ill-mannered lout’.

Be responsible for your feelings. Say what you feel: ‘I feel irritated when
you cancel meetings at the last minute,’ rather than scolding: ‘Why are you
always cancelling meetings at the last minute?’

Listen. Find out the other person’s point of view and respect it.

Find areas of agreement. Actively seek out points you concur with or things
you have in common. When you disagree with someone, be direct but constructive.
Outline areas where you agree and offer alternatives where you don’t.

Choose the time and place. When you have something important to discuss,
choose somewhere private and make sure you have the other person’s full

Be direct. Say what you want and get straight to the point. It saves time and
you can begin negotiating. Don’t manipulate or have hidden agendas.

Use assertive body language. Look people in the eye, smile and use open
gestures rather than folding your arms or pointing your finger.

Take no for an answer. If someone can’t or won’t do something, respect their
decision. Don’t bully or cajole them or take it as a personal affront.

If someone is aggressive to you, don’t retaliate. Either rise above it and
ignore it, or take the wind out of their sails by agreeing with them.

Lynn Williams is a career counsellor and has written
several career books

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