Skip to main content

Why You Need to Be an Assertive Ninja

 Assertiveness and You… Part I


Did you know that assertive workers…


  • Convey capability and competence.
  • Experience less stress (and less stress effects!).
  • Have all the benefits of established self-esteem.
  • Remain in control during times of conflict… and also have control over their anger.
  • Tend to elicit a constructive response in others.


Sounds good eh?  I don’t know about you, but I want to get me some of that!


Okay, tell me more


Assertion is grounded in the fact that everyone has the right to be treated with respect in all situations. Everyone has the right to be listened to and to be taken seriously, to say yes or no with conviction, to express their opinion, and to ask for what they need.

Assertive behavior can be many things. It can be standing up for your rights, feeling comfortable about being honest, expressing yourself with honestly (say what you mean and mean what you say), and observing and respecting the rights of others.  In working relationships, assertive behaviour promotes equality and a healthy balance.

And balance is basically what it’s all about… achieving a balance between acknowledging and requesting your individual rights, while considering and respecting the rights of others.

Behaving in an assertive way is critical to both surviving at work and driving your career forward.


So, what are the options?


Generally, personality types fall into three categories:


1. Passive

  • Lack confidence expressing thoughts and feelings.
  • Frequently unhappy because they permit others to violate their rights.
  • Ignore and do not express what you want.
  • Lie about what you really think.
  • Asking permission.
  • Self-depreciating.
  • Excessive need for (and seeking of) approval from others.
  • Assuming or believing the needs and wants of others are more important than your own.
  • Over-apology and justification.
  • Immediately backing down as soon as confrontation or resistance appears.


2. Aggressive

  • Boasting.
  • Demands own way and is unwilling to compromise, negotiate or understand other viewpoints.
  • Excessive dissatisfaction – always criticizing and fault finding.
  • Discourages opinions from others, whether subtly or overtly.
  • Disagrees as a matter of course.
  • Patronising remarks, comments or manner.
  • Takes over a conversation, talks over others and interrupts.
  • Intimidating – threats, remarks or comments.
  • Uses forceful words “YOU SHOULD”, “YOU MUST”, “YOU HAVE TO”.
  • Brandishes their opinion as fact.

3. Assertive

  • Clear and to the point – say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Provides clear and factual reasons if required.
  • Shares opinions as opinions and not as fact.
  • Honestly and comfortably expresses wants, needs and opinions.
  • Open with own views and opinions and open to those of others.
  • Open to others feelings and views in the way requests or suggestions are made.
  • Constructive and positive.
  • Essential to career success.


Let me illustrate.  Imagine you’re in a common workplace scenario discussing the allocation of a piece work with a peer colleague (let’s call him Jeff).  The piece of work involved is pretty hefty. Jeff doesn’t think it’s for him to do – he thinks it falls into your area of expertise and therefore should be something you take on.  However, from the limited information you have, you believe it’s actually Jeff’s work area and not yours.

In this scenario there are 3 potential outcomes: one of you will win and and the other lose, both of you will win or both of you will lose:


Passive, Assertive, Aggressive

In the picture above,  you can see the 3 scenarios:


  1. On the left, as soon as Jeff asks, you concede.  You take his word that you should do the work and, although you’re really not happy, you take the work and add it to your already growing pile of tasks that you need to complete.  You have been passive.

  3. In the middle, you discuss Jeff’s opinion that you should take the work.  You highlight your concerns and listen to his rationale.  Perhaps you end up taking the work, but this is only after listening to Jeff’s reasons and making your own decision that he is correct.  Alternatively, you might politely explain to Jeff that you disagree with his interpretation of why the work should be yours and therefore decline to accept it.  You have been assertive.

  5. On the right, you laugh in Jeff’s face and tell him there’s no way you’re taking the work.  You refuse to discuss why he thinks you should take it because everyone knows Jeff is lazy.  You tell him to go away.  You have been aggressive.


Develop your Assertiveness


So, now you know about these three personal personalities, which one does your behaviour tend towards? If your answer isn’t “assertive”, then don’t worry! Like playing the violin, speaking French or mastering karate, assertiveness can be learned.

In future weeks, I’ll be posting hints, tips and resources about how you can develop your assertiveness muscles and become an assertive ninja who survives and thrives at work.


Learn more:


If you want to find out more about Assertiveness, check out these resources.  Please note, I’m not affiliated with these in any way and cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Improving Assertiveness

Being Assertive – A self-help guide 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: