Assertiveness Skills for the Workplace

Reviewed Nov 18, 2015

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Summary

  • Shy people can and do succeed in the workplace.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Build networks.
  • Learn new ways to share your strengths.

Can a shy person excel—or even survive—in today’s competitive workplace? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to career counselors, psychologists and executive coaches.

Know yourself

  1. Are you quiet at work?
  2. Do you hesitate to speak up at meetings?
  3. When you think you’ve done a good job on a project, do you keep that information to yourself?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may be more introverted than extroverted, at home and at work.

Toss out stereotypes

Not everyone understands shy people, especially in the workplace. Because they don’t toot their own horns, co-workers might think quiet people are unproductive, slow or even disinterested in what they do. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth! 

Shy people work just as hard as everyone else and, sometimes, harder. They might not speak up at meetings, but that’s because they want to think before they speak.

“Introverts at work are often quite articulate and thoughtful public speakers when given the correct situation and preparation,” says Steve Langerud, director of career development for DePauw University. “We are socialized to see leadership and success as extroverted, aggressive, and male when, in fact, most of us are not all three and we succeed just fine.”

Acknowledge and honor who you are

No one is totally extroverted or introverted, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge where you feel most comfortable on the spectrum between the opposite poles of social behavior. If you’re shy, you tend to hold back and stay out of the spotlight, something you most likely learned as a child. Even if you want to, you don’t feel comfortable contributing to a group discussion. 

“If we look at what we learned in our original organization—the family—and see how we have brought that behavior to our current organization—the workplace—we can begin to make the internal adjustments that will give us what we want,” explains Sylvia Lafair, author of Don’t Bring It to Work

You may think you can be shy at home but outgoing at work, but psychologist Lafair says that is not the case. You can learn new behaviors to help overcome some stress you’re having at work or in social situations. But, even if you learn new behaviors, you will remain a shy person. Your basic personality will not change, even if you experience less stress than you once did in similar situations.    

“Honor who you are because you won’t change,” advises career consultant Linda D. Henman, PhD. “Be heartened by the awareness that many senior leaders are introverts. They have learned to adjust their behavior to meet the demands of their jobs, but because they have the essentials of leadership—integrity, drive, and brains—they have made it.”

Emphasize your strengths

In general, introverted people are:

  • thoughtful and inclusive in forming work teams
  • more focused on process than outcomes
  • able to contribute as much to a workplace as anyone else
  • often strong supervisors
  • calm under pressure
  • reflective and analytical
  • dependable
  • able to “walk the talk”
  • likely to say what they mean and mean what they say
  • consistent 

Expand your network

Job coaches offer the following networking tips for shy people:

  1. Establish connections with colleagues or potential employers through online websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Internet networking offers you a way to introduce your strengths and abilities to others before an interview or meeting. Through these sites, you can build common ground before you meet someone in person.
  2. Look for informal ways to network within your workplace. Volunteer for fundraisers, sports teams or social programs.
  3. Join Toastmasters International to gain practice in public speaking, suggests Robin Ryan, author of Soaring on Your Strengths. Put your skills to work in civic or service organizations before you bring them to work.
  4. Work on your written presentation skills. Get training, if you need it, in word processing, graphics, photography or PowerPoint.

Try something new

Don’t hide your personality—turn it into a strength! Milan P. Yager, president of National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, says shy people should focus on their abilities when talking about their work. Say something like, “I’m glad I was able to contribute my research [or strategic thinking, organizational skills or whatever] to Project X.”

Plan what you will say in a meeting or any important conversation, suggests David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! When you speak at meetings, use positive, non-personal language. Make sure you are connecting emotionally to colleagues when you speak to them. Use stories whenever you can. Keep the focus off yourself, but on the work at hand.

Watch your body language. Don’t cross your legs or arms, and don’t hide your mouth while you speak, warns Maryann Karinch, author of 16 books about human behavior.

Have more meaningful conversations (in the form of feedback to direct reports, for example) and fewer superficial ones (such as gab sessions at the water cooler).

Although we tend to act one way, we also have power within us to take that pattern and move it to a healthy, positive, opposite one, Lafair says. She teaches a technique called OUT, an acronym for observe, understand and transform. Here are her tips for changing behavior, but not personality:

  1. Observe yourself in different settings throughout the day, for several weeks. Take note of times when you feel shut down, intimidated, or uncomfortable for not speaking up. You’ll begin to see where your buttons get pushed.
  2. Understand. Look back at how you responded in uncomfortable situations when you were a child. When did you hold back your feelings? When was it unsafe to speak up? What made a message dangerous?
  3. Transform. Take a risk and do something different. If you are in a meeting, speak first, no matter how hard that may be. If your tendency is to please people, practice saying the word “no” out loud. If you always say “yes,” try to say what you really think the next time you are asked.

Knowledge is power. Lafair believes that practicing these techniques will help you change behavior slowly and steadily. Even subtle change can help you cope better in stressful situations.

Whatever you do, be proud of what you are and what you contribute to the team. Despite what you may have heard, introverted people are valued in the workplace. As one job coach said, “You can always count on an introvert!”

Resource

Toastmasters International
P.O. Box 9052
Mission Viejo, CA 92690-0952
(949) 858-8255
www.toastmasters.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Linda Henman, PhD, executive coach and author of The Magnetic Boss; Sylvia Lafair, PhD, family counselor and author of Don’t Bring It to Work, White Haven, Pa.; Steve Langerud, director of career development, DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.; David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Minneapolis, Minn.; Maryann Karinch, athlete, executive coach and author of Business Lessons from the Edge, Estes Park, Colo.; Robin Ryan, career counselor, author of Over 40 & You’re Hired and Soaring on Your Strengths, Newcastle, Wash.; Milan P. Yager, president, National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, Alexandria, Va.

Summary

  • Shy people can and do succeed in the workplace.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Build networks.
  • Learn new ways to share your strengths.

Can a shy person excel—or even survive—in today’s competitive workplace? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to career counselors, psychologists and executive coaches.

Know yourself

  1. Are you quiet at work?
  2. Do you hesitate to speak up at meetings?
  3. When you think you’ve done a good job on a project, do you keep that information to yourself?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may be more introverted than extroverted, at home and at work.

Toss out stereotypes

Not everyone understands shy people, especially in the workplace. Because they don’t toot their own horns, co-workers might think quiet people are unproductive, slow or even disinterested in what they do. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth! 

Shy people work just as hard as everyone else and, sometimes, harder. They might not speak up at meetings, but that’s because they want to think before they speak.

“Introverts at work are often quite articulate and thoughtful public speakers when given the correct situation and preparation,” says Steve Langerud, director of career development for DePauw University. “We are socialized to see leadership and success as extroverted, aggressive, and male when, in fact, most of us are not all three and we succeed just fine.”

Acknowledge and honor who you are

No one is totally extroverted or introverted, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge where you feel most comfortable on the spectrum between the opposite poles of social behavior. If you’re shy, you tend to hold back and stay out of the spotlight, something you most likely learned as a child. Even if you want to, you don’t feel comfortable contributing to a group discussion. 

“If we look at what we learned in our original organization—the family—and see how we have brought that behavior to our current organization—the workplace—we can begin to make the internal adjustments that will give us what we want,” explains Sylvia Lafair, author of Don’t Bring It to Work

You may think you can be shy at home but outgoing at work, but psychologist Lafair says that is not the case. You can learn new behaviors to help overcome some stress you’re having at work or in social situations. But, even if you learn new behaviors, you will remain a shy person. Your basic personality will not change, even if you experience less stress than you once did in similar situations.    

“Honor who you are because you won’t change,” advises career consultant Linda D. Henman, PhD. “Be heartened by the awareness that many senior leaders are introverts. They have learned to adjust their behavior to meet the demands of their jobs, but because they have the essentials of leadership—integrity, drive, and brains—they have made it.”

Emphasize your strengths

In general, introverted people are:

  • thoughtful and inclusive in forming work teams
  • more focused on process than outcomes
  • able to contribute as much to a workplace as anyone else
  • often strong supervisors
  • calm under pressure
  • reflective and analytical
  • dependable
  • able to “walk the talk”
  • likely to say what they mean and mean what they say
  • consistent 

Expand your network

Job coaches offer the following networking tips for shy people:

  1. Establish connections with colleagues or potential employers through online websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Internet networking offers you a way to introduce your strengths and abilities to others before an interview or meeting. Through these sites, you can build common ground before you meet someone in person.
  2. Look for informal ways to network within your workplace. Volunteer for fundraisers, sports teams or social programs.
  3. Join Toastmasters International to gain practice in public speaking, suggests Robin Ryan, author of Soaring on Your Strengths. Put your skills to work in civic or service organizations before you bring them to work.
  4. Work on your written presentation skills. Get training, if you need it, in word processing, graphics, photography or PowerPoint.

Try something new

Don’t hide your personality—turn it into a strength! Milan P. Yager, president of National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, says shy people should focus on their abilities when talking about their work. Say something like, “I’m glad I was able to contribute my research [or strategic thinking, organizational skills or whatever] to Project X.”

Plan what you will say in a meeting or any important conversation, suggests David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! When you speak at meetings, use positive, non-personal language. Make sure you are connecting emotionally to colleagues when you speak to them. Use stories whenever you can. Keep the focus off yourself, but on the work at hand.

Watch your body language. Don’t cross your legs or arms, and don’t hide your mouth while you speak, warns Maryann Karinch, author of 16 books about human behavior.

Have more meaningful conversations (in the form of feedback to direct reports, for example) and fewer superficial ones (such as gab sessions at the water cooler).

Although we tend to act one way, we also have power within us to take that pattern and move it to a healthy, positive, opposite one, Lafair says. She teaches a technique called OUT, an acronym for observe, understand and transform. Here are her tips for changing behavior, but not personality:

  1. Observe yourself in different settings throughout the day, for several weeks. Take note of times when you feel shut down, intimidated, or uncomfortable for not speaking up. You’ll begin to see where your buttons get pushed.
  2. Understand. Look back at how you responded in uncomfortable situations when you were a child. When did you hold back your feelings? When was it unsafe to speak up? What made a message dangerous?
  3. Transform. Take a risk and do something different. If you are in a meeting, speak first, no matter how hard that may be. If your tendency is to please people, practice saying the word “no” out loud. If you always say “yes,” try to say what you really think the next time you are asked.

Knowledge is power. Lafair believes that practicing these techniques will help you change behavior slowly and steadily. Even subtle change can help you cope better in stressful situations.

Whatever you do, be proud of what you are and what you contribute to the team. Despite what you may have heard, introverted people are valued in the workplace. As one job coach said, “You can always count on an introvert!”

Resource

Toastmasters International
P.O. Box 9052
Mission Viejo, CA 92690-0952
(949) 858-8255
www.toastmasters.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Linda Henman, PhD, executive coach and author of The Magnetic Boss; Sylvia Lafair, PhD, family counselor and author of Don’t Bring It to Work, White Haven, Pa.; Steve Langerud, director of career development, DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.; David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Minneapolis, Minn.; Maryann Karinch, athlete, executive coach and author of Business Lessons from the Edge, Estes Park, Colo.; Robin Ryan, career counselor, author of Over 40 & You’re Hired and Soaring on Your Strengths, Newcastle, Wash.; Milan P. Yager, president, National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, Alexandria, Va.

Summary

  • Shy people can and do succeed in the workplace.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Build networks.
  • Learn new ways to share your strengths.

Can a shy person excel—or even survive—in today’s competitive workplace? The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to career counselors, psychologists and executive coaches.

Know yourself

  1. Are you quiet at work?
  2. Do you hesitate to speak up at meetings?
  3. When you think you’ve done a good job on a project, do you keep that information to yourself?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may be more introverted than extroverted, at home and at work.

Toss out stereotypes

Not everyone understands shy people, especially in the workplace. Because they don’t toot their own horns, co-workers might think quiet people are unproductive, slow or even disinterested in what they do. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth! 

Shy people work just as hard as everyone else and, sometimes, harder. They might not speak up at meetings, but that’s because they want to think before they speak.

“Introverts at work are often quite articulate and thoughtful public speakers when given the correct situation and preparation,” says Steve Langerud, director of career development for DePauw University. “We are socialized to see leadership and success as extroverted, aggressive, and male when, in fact, most of us are not all three and we succeed just fine.”

Acknowledge and honor who you are

No one is totally extroverted or introverted, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge where you feel most comfortable on the spectrum between the opposite poles of social behavior. If you’re shy, you tend to hold back and stay out of the spotlight, something you most likely learned as a child. Even if you want to, you don’t feel comfortable contributing to a group discussion. 

“If we look at what we learned in our original organization—the family—and see how we have brought that behavior to our current organization—the workplace—we can begin to make the internal adjustments that will give us what we want,” explains Sylvia Lafair, author of Don’t Bring It to Work

You may think you can be shy at home but outgoing at work, but psychologist Lafair says that is not the case. You can learn new behaviors to help overcome some stress you’re having at work or in social situations. But, even if you learn new behaviors, you will remain a shy person. Your basic personality will not change, even if you experience less stress than you once did in similar situations.    

“Honor who you are because you won’t change,” advises career consultant Linda D. Henman, PhD. “Be heartened by the awareness that many senior leaders are introverts. They have learned to adjust their behavior to meet the demands of their jobs, but because they have the essentials of leadership—integrity, drive, and brains—they have made it.”

Emphasize your strengths

In general, introverted people are:

  • thoughtful and inclusive in forming work teams
  • more focused on process than outcomes
  • able to contribute as much to a workplace as anyone else
  • often strong supervisors
  • calm under pressure
  • reflective and analytical
  • dependable
  • able to “walk the talk”
  • likely to say what they mean and mean what they say
  • consistent 

Expand your network

Job coaches offer the following networking tips for shy people:

  1. Establish connections with colleagues or potential employers through online websites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Internet networking offers you a way to introduce your strengths and abilities to others before an interview or meeting. Through these sites, you can build common ground before you meet someone in person.
  2. Look for informal ways to network within your workplace. Volunteer for fundraisers, sports teams or social programs.
  3. Join Toastmasters International to gain practice in public speaking, suggests Robin Ryan, author of Soaring on Your Strengths. Put your skills to work in civic or service organizations before you bring them to work.
  4. Work on your written presentation skills. Get training, if you need it, in word processing, graphics, photography or PowerPoint.

Try something new

Don’t hide your personality—turn it into a strength! Milan P. Yager, president of National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, says shy people should focus on their abilities when talking about their work. Say something like, “I’m glad I was able to contribute my research [or strategic thinking, organizational skills or whatever] to Project X.”

Plan what you will say in a meeting or any important conversation, suggests David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! When you speak at meetings, use positive, non-personal language. Make sure you are connecting emotionally to colleagues when you speak to them. Use stories whenever you can. Keep the focus off yourself, but on the work at hand.

Watch your body language. Don’t cross your legs or arms, and don’t hide your mouth while you speak, warns Maryann Karinch, author of 16 books about human behavior.

Have more meaningful conversations (in the form of feedback to direct reports, for example) and fewer superficial ones (such as gab sessions at the water cooler).

Although we tend to act one way, we also have power within us to take that pattern and move it to a healthy, positive, opposite one, Lafair says. She teaches a technique called OUT, an acronym for observe, understand and transform. Here are her tips for changing behavior, but not personality:

  1. Observe yourself in different settings throughout the day, for several weeks. Take note of times when you feel shut down, intimidated, or uncomfortable for not speaking up. You’ll begin to see where your buttons get pushed.
  2. Understand. Look back at how you responded in uncomfortable situations when you were a child. When did you hold back your feelings? When was it unsafe to speak up? What made a message dangerous?
  3. Transform. Take a risk and do something different. If you are in a meeting, speak first, no matter how hard that may be. If your tendency is to please people, practice saying the word “no” out loud. If you always say “yes,” try to say what you really think the next time you are asked.

Knowledge is power. Lafair believes that practicing these techniques will help you change behavior slowly and steadily. Even subtle change can help you cope better in stressful situations.

Whatever you do, be proud of what you are and what you contribute to the team. Despite what you may have heard, introverted people are valued in the workplace. As one job coach said, “You can always count on an introvert!”

Resource

Toastmasters International
P.O. Box 9052
Mission Viejo, CA 92690-0952
(949) 858-8255
www.toastmasters.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Linda Henman, PhD, executive coach and author of The Magnetic Boss; Sylvia Lafair, PhD, family counselor and author of Don’t Bring It to Work, White Haven, Pa.; Steve Langerud, director of career development, DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.; David Levin, author of Don’t Just Talk, Be Heard! Minneapolis, Minn.; Maryann Karinch, athlete, executive coach and author of Business Lessons from the Edge, Estes Park, Colo.; Robin Ryan, career counselor, author of Over 40 & You’re Hired and Soaring on Your Strengths, Newcastle, Wash.; Milan P. Yager, president, National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, Alexandria, Va.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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