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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Deanne Coaching

​​​​How To Be More Assertive

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

As a female business owner, you know that being assertive is key to success. But for many women, being assertive can be a challenge. We've been conditioned to be polite and accommodating, and often feel uncomfortable speaking up for ourselves. But being assertive is not about being aggressive or rude. It's about standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and communicating effectively. In this article, we'll explore some tips for being more assertive in your business dealings, so you can achieve your goals with confidence and grace.

Be clear about your boundaries

One of the keys to being more assertive is to be clear about your boundaries. This means knowing what you will and won't tolerate, and communicating that clearly to others. If someone is crossing a boundary, it's important to speak up and let them know. For example, if a client is demanding too much of your time, you might say something like, "I'm happy to help, but I have other clients and projects that need my attention as well. Let's set up a schedule that works for both of us." By being clear about your boundaries, you'll earn respect and be more effective in your business relationships.

Let’s channel our inner Ellie Woods here, ladies. (No, not the bend and snap…that’s a whole different blog post…) Remember when her boss asks her to deliver a box to her ex’s house that has THAT video tape in it? Elle initially agrees, but when she finds out the true nature of the package, she stands up for herself and refuses to do it, saying "I promised myself that I would never do anything just because it's what someone else wanted me to do. And that includes you." This shows how important it is to stick to your boundaries and not let others push you into doing something you're not comfortable with, even if it means standing up to someone in authority. What, like it’s hard?

Practice saying no

As a business owner, you're probably used to saying yes to everything. But sometimes, saying no is the best thing you can do for yourself and your business. Saying no doesn't mean you're being unhelpful or rude; it means you're setting boundaries and protecting your time and energy. So practice saying no in a polite but firm way. For example, "I'm sorry, I won't be able to take on that project right now. I have other commitments that need my attention." By practicing saying no, you'll feel more confident in your ability to assert yourself and prioritize your own needs.

For the Parks and Recreation fans, here’s a great example: in one episode, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, is faced with the challenge of saying no to a project that she does not believe in. She initially struggles with being assertive and saying no, but eventually stands her ground and declines the project. The scene is a humorous yet empowering example of how saying no can be difficult but ultimately necessary for personal and professional growth.

Use confident body language

Your body language can communicate a lot about your level of confidence and assertiveness. So make sure you're using body language that conveys strength and self-assurance. Stand up straight, make eye contact, and speak in a clear, firm voice. Avoid fidgeting or slouching, which can make you appear unsure of yourself. By using confident body language, you'll feel more assertive and project that confidence to others.

In the movie Working Girl, Tess McGill, played by Melanie Griffith, stands up to her boss and confidently takes control of a business deal, using her body language to assert herself. One iconic scene shows Tess standing tall in her power suit, staring down her boss with her arms crossed and her chin held high, exuding confidence and determination. This is a great example of how body language can convey assertiveness and authority in a professional setting.

Be direct and specific in your communication

When you're communicating with others, be direct and specific about what you need or want. Don't beat around the bush or hint at what you're trying to say. Be clear and concise. For example, instead of saying, "I'm not sure if that's what I had in mind," say, "That's not what I had in mind. Let's try it this way instead." By being direct and specific, you'll avoid misunderstandings and communicate your needs more effectively.

In the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge Maisel is a housewife turned stand-up comedian who is known for her quick wit and direct communication style. When she decides to pursue a career in comedy, she doesn't beat around the bush with her manager and demands what she wants from him. In one scene, she tells him, "I want a contract, I want a raise, and I want a hat." Her assertive communication style, combined with her humor, helps her achieve success in what is seen as a male-dominated industry. (Sidenote: why are those still a thing…)

Practice assertive responses

Sometimes, people will try to push your boundaries or get you to agree to something you're not comfortable with. In these situations, it's important to have assertive responses at the ready. For example, if someone is pressuring you to agree to something you don't want to do, you might say, "I appreciate the opportunity, but I'm not comfortable with that. Let's explore other options." By having assertive responses prepared, you'll feel more confident in your ability to handle difficult situations.

In one episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kimmy is working as a nanny for a wealthy and demanding mother named Jacqueline. When Jacqueline asks Kimmy to do something unreasonable, Kimmy responds with a confident and assertive tone, stating "No Jacqueline, I will not be doing that." Jacqueline is taken aback by Kimmy's response but ultimately respects her boundaries. This example showcases the importance of standing up for yourself in the workplace and how even a character like Kimmy, who is often portrayed as naive, can still practice assertiveness in her communication with others.

Being assertive can be a powerful tool and can bring numerous benefits. One key benefit is that it allows you to clearly communicate your needs and desires to others, without the fear of being judged or dismissed. By being assertive, you can set boundaries, make requests, and express yourself in a direct and confident way. This can help you avoid resentment and build stronger, more authentic relationships with your colleagues, employees, and clients.

Another benefit of being assertive is that it can help you develop a strong sense of self-worth and self-respect.

By standing up for yourself and speaking your mind, you can gain a greater sense of control over your life and your career. This can help you feel more empowered and confident in your abilities, and can lead to greater success and fulfillment in all areas of your life. Additionally, being assertive can help you avoid falling into the trap of people-pleasing, which can be exhausting and unfulfilling in the long run.

This is an important skill for us gals, in business and personal settings. By setting clear boundaries, saying no when necessary, using confident body language, being direct and specific in your communication, and practicing assertive responses, you can assert yourself with confidence and achieve your goals. Remember, being assertive is not about being aggressive or rude, but about standing up for yourself, which is ALWAYS worth it!


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