Speaking up during meetings or in the workplace can be a challenging and overwhelming experience to some people. Luckily, there are some easy and logical ways to deal with the fear that comes from being assertive and keeping in mind that it isn’t the same as being aggressive.

Assertiveness is when you are upfront about your opinions on a certain topic. 

The key to being assertive is that you speak up in a respectful manner. If you are too aggressive when trying to be assertive, it can come off as selfish and pushy. Keep in mind that an assertive person gets his or her point across in a clear and fair manner.

And by aggressive I don’t mean to take a strong stand, hold your position or having a clear and determined voice. Aggressive comes across when you get worked up inside, your fists clench and you feel like your back is against the wall and the only thing that helps you is sheer force. 

Many women in STEM tell me that they often leave a meeting thinking that they should’ve said this or that. 

The lack of assertive actions is often the case because we are shy, too analytical to quickly formulate our thoughts or because meetings can be overwhelming. We also tend to have this mindset that we must know the right answer, otherwise it isn’t worth answering at all. Well, that is not true. Here are some easy ways to train yourself to be more assertive.

Deal with the fear of putting yourself out there by uncovering the beliefs that make you afraid or hesitant. 

If you’re often afraid of answering something wrongfully, educate yourself more in the topic and gradually offer your opinion more and more during meetings. It’s the small steps towards your goal that will lead to change.

We often have subconscious beliefs that are deeply rooted and that we might not even realize that we are talking ourselves down. A great way to deal with these beliefs is to bring awareness to them. Beliefs are a representation of how we think the world works, meaning that it is not a “truth”, it is a hypothesis. A great way to approach negative thoughts is to form a hypothesis and find people or actions in your life that prove it or disprove it. 

One of the best ways to be assertive when you don’t have that much experience is to prepare prior to meetings. 

Educate yourself and formulate opinions and points so you can speak up with plenty of conviction. But it’s important that you listen to others and are willing to change your opinion when new data and information comes to light.

Overall, it can be difficult to take that first step into being assertive, but once you get the hang of it you’ll learn that it isn’t as scary as you thought. It is always important to stay grounded and understand that your opinion on a topic isn’t necessarily always right. That’s why it’s so important to have an open mind when speaking up, so you don’t come off as rude or aggressive to your co-workers.

I talked about this in detail on Katie Stoddart’s podcast. Click here to listen to the episode and hear me geek out about 

  • Being pro-active and why it matters
  • How to change our beliefs
  • Key planning strategies to reach our outcomes
  • How to trick ourselves into the flow
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