Research indicates that on average, agreeable people earn less money than assertive people. The personality trait dubbed by psychologists as “agreeableness” manifests as your amiability towards others and acceptance of their interests. But this “getting along” mentality prevents us from sticking up for our own interests and asking for what we really want. Without changing who you are, here are a few tips to be more assertive in the workplace:
Be firm in articulation
When making a request, your uncomfortableness can be transparent in your speech. For example, hedged expressions such as: “sort of”, “perhaps” or “I was hoping”, can dilute your central message and make you appear less confident than the level you should be to get what you need. These linguistic habits may come off as polite in making requests, but it also makes it sound low in priority or even unworthy of being granted.
Use direct language such as “I need…” or “I want…” when making your requests. Managers and decision makers can’t accommodate all requests, but this kind of articulation will put you at the top of the list.
Always provide a reason
Asking for exactly what you want may be a start, but without justifying your requests is a crucial error. A reason, no matter how short will shift people from making a “yes” or “no” decision to having to scramble with an alternative argument. In fact, even redundant or flawed reasons increases the chances of your request being granted compared to none at all. The classic study by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer looked at the scenario of people requesting to cut in the line to use the office copier. Those that asked: “Can I cut in? I need to make copies” received almost as much compliance as those who asked: “Can I cut in? I’m in a rush?” Whereas, the simple: “Can I cut in?” earned less than half the compliance rate.
Ultimately, it’s a balancing act between keeping your request succinct and providing a solid justification.
Comport your request as a first impression
Just like the first 5 minutes of an interview, your appearance and the sound of your voice far outweighs the words that you actually say. Apply all the principles you normally would such as eye contact, standing tall, speaking clearly and a firm handshake. By leveraging emotional intelligence when asking people for things, you will always convey confidence and instil urgency in your requests.
Never be scared to ask
Finally, remember that there’s no harm in simply asking. Decision makers are expected to manage requests so throwing yours into the mix is all part of the process regardless of the outcome. Making demands neither infringes upon employee ethics, nor is it a socially inappropriate activity in the workplace. The bottom line is: good managers will not change their opinions on you or make it personal.
Implementing these guidelines for the first time can be nerve racking, but start by practising before a big request to help put it all together. Always remind yourself that withholding your requests can hinder your efficiency to carry out your goals and meet your manager’s expectations. In other words, don’t treat requests by your higher-ups as a one-way-street. After all you are not a minion you’re a valued employee.