From Apology to Assertiveness: Transforming Your Communication Style — Careers Done Write

Um, yeah, hi, like it would be really great if I could, like have your attention. Please? Sorry, but you know, this is uh an uh really important topic and like sort of important, so could you please pay attention? 

These two sentences are perfect examples of apologetic, non-assertive language. Aside from the use of meaningless garbage fillers such as “like,” “um,” and “you know,” also included is one of the worst words that you can use in your business communications: “SORRY.” Nothing tanks a message like a “sorry” does. Why? Because the word has become so overused and milquetoast that it signals the oncoming lame and unnecessarily apologetic screed. No one has time for that.  

It’s important to develop an assertive communication style to improve your communication skills and get results. Assertiveness lies at the heart of effective communication. It involves expressing your thoughts, needs, and desires with confidence while respecting the opinions and boundaries of others. Avoid the extremes of passive (being too accommodating) or aggressive (being confrontational) communication, and strive for a balanced, assertive approach.

How many conversations like this have you been party to? Perhaps you have even been the offender! Hi, yeah, sorry I am late. My last meeting ran long and I couldn’t get out until just now. Then I needed to grab a coffee before I came in here, so sorry again about the delay.

What’s wrong with this? It is overly apologetic and has too many details (TMI if you will). It makes you appear less confident, weaker, and blameworthy. In short, it undermines your messaging. This is a much better take: Thank you all for waiting. Please continue, and I will catch up on anything I missed. This is being assertive. You don’t apologize, rationalize, or minimize. You state the facts and move on.

Allowing yourself to be non-assertive will threaten interpersonal relationships, and emotional problems will arise; lowering self-esteem can even be a ‘time bomb,’ which at any time can threaten the continuity of both your career and your mental health. 

Being assertive allows you to solve the problem of being misunderstood. Assertive communication is clear, cogent, and lucid. It leaves no doubt about the intended message. Using assertive language can positively influence beneficial characteristics that impact your career trajectory—self-expression, being self-confident, being accepted by others, and being approved by others.

Being assertive will get you what you want without dominating or demoralizing someone. This set of skills will help you become more of an advocate for yourself and others. Assertiveness is a healthy, prosocial behavior in the middle of a continuum. While no one enjoys being walked on, many dislike being overly aggressive. Respect comes from standing up for yourself. Not only will others respect you, but you will respect yourself for speaking up. You bring value, and what you say is impactful. Share it!

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