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That’s right, it’s here again – performance evaluation time. Are you ready to hear your manager’s suggestions for improvement and criticism? Sometimes, it can be hard to take these criticisms, especially ones like, “You need to be ‘more assertive’ in your communication.” Do comments like these mean that your manager thinks you are a pushover?

 Keep in mind, that when asking for further explanations, it’s important to keep your tone and phrasing diplomatic. Asking pointblank if your manager thinks you’re a pushover, for example, might be taken as ” fighting words.” But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be assertive in the way you ask your questions. Assertiveness is an interpersonal skill in which you demonstrate  that  you are able to stand up for yourself and your rights, while respecting the rights of others.

So now  is the time that you would be gearing up to let him know that his communication style  is” too aggressive” and that he should tone down it down. Too bad that the hierarchy of many workplace cultures makes that direct expression of emotions risky for both employers and employees.

 Being assertive in the workplace is a frequently misunderstood concept. This is one skill that can help you effectively stand up to the bossy co-worker, an overbearing manager or a difficult team. It can also help your self-esteem and positively impact both personal happiness and workplace achievement. It is assertiveness. There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive

 Assertive communicators leave no doubt about what  they are saying. When they make their point, it’s clear, concise and direct. There’s fluff, no “um’s” or “ah’s.” Assertive people have no hidden agenda. You can however, be assertive without stepping on other people’s toes. Make sure that when you are promoting your own ideas, you also take time to acknowledge the other person too. For example, you could say, “That’s a good idea! How about if we did this too…” That way you are working with others, while still getting your ideas across.

On the other hand, aggressive communicators focus on blame, criticism and are often just plain accusatory. Their approach usually follow the idea of, “This is what we’re doing, if you don’t like it, tough!” – the ‘my way or the highway’ approach. Aggressive people in the workplace often bite off people’s heads so often that it makes others defensive. Most of the time, this leads to conflict . An office fight or employees shutting down are outcomes you want to avoid in your workplace communication.

 According to Caroline Miller, author of “Creating Your Best Life”, the three keys to assertive behavior are, “Knowing what you want, believing you have a right to it, and finding the courage to express it.” Assertive people communicate their opinions without apology and then listen willingly to others. They’re not pushovers, as they recognize the limits to which they can bend.

The healthiest communication style and the one that’s most often underused is assertiveness that doesn’t push other people to the side so you can succeed.  Assertiveness takes time and practice. Behaving assertively can help you:

  • Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Understand and recognize your feelings
  • Earn respect from others
  • Improve communication
  • Create win-win situations
  • Improve your decision-making skills
  • Create honest relationships
  • Gain more job satisfaction

 With this in mind, here are some tips to help you survive that performance evaluation and come across as assertive, rather than aggressive:

  • Set boundaries of acceptable rules and limits
  • Keep your responses short and to the point.
  • Use confident tone of voice and body language with a neutral facial expression
  •  Focus on behavior and stay in control
  • Make sure your employer knows you hear his suggestions and will take it in stride

If you find that in your performance appraisal, you  are falling in the aggressive communicator category more than assertive, maybe it’s time to stop and re-evaluate your communication style and ask yourself what  can you do to be an assertive communicator?