Do you get the nicknames like “Bossy bitch” “steamroller” in your workplace? Or are you polite to a fault and are wondering about how you could be a bit more outspoken without being rude?
This article is about how you could be professionally assertive without seeming as rude. But first, we need to differentiate the two. Even though both sometimes get confusing, the not-so-fine line between the two is easy to identify.
What is considered rude behavior?
Rudeness is behaving in a mean, aggressive, and socially unacceptable way and physically or verbally attacking the other person for their opinion, appearance, lifestyle, belief, choice, activities, and so on. When someone is yelling, threatening, or using abusive language and gestures during an argument or conversation, that is usually considered rude behavior. It is a highly unprofessional, disrespectful, and unethical manner to behave in the workplace or even amongst peers. If you engage in one or more of these behaviors, then you have crossed the line from assertive to rude.
What is considered assertive or outspoken behavior?
When someone puts forward their demand, disagreement, or argument in a clear, well-articulated manner without disrespecting or personally attacking other people, it is considered assertiveness. If you can speak up when you need to establish some clear boundaries expectations, express your opinion, agreement, or disagreement in a calm, authoritative manner without an emotional outburst or abusive or insulting behavior towards others, you are an assertive and outspoken person, and not a rude one. Even though sometimes these qualities can be criticized by colleagues or co-workers, they are not improper or impolite manners and are needed for making oneself be heard.
How can you be professionally assertive without being rude?
If you are already considered strongly outspoken and receive comments on your assertiveness, you are on the right track. However, if you are not a talker or do not assert yourself often, people can take advantage of you or sometimes steamroll you into an uncomfortable situation. The following steps can help you become professionally assertive without coming across as rude to others.
1. Think about your boundaries and expectations
It is very important for you to have a clear idea of what you expect from others and what boundaries you want to set for yourself and your colleagues. So think about your standing, professional stance, boundaries, and expectations and decide what you want and what the behaviors and parameters are that you shall stick to.
2. Express your boundaries, expectations in a clear well-articulated manner
Once you are clear about your opinions and professional ground, communicate them to others. You should be clear and articulate them firmly. Use words to tell them how you feel about a particular situation or behavior. Do not expect everyone to agree with you or to take your words kindly, but do not budge from your stand and do not apologize for speaking up.
3. Be firm but polite in an argument
When you have an argument, disagreement, or conflict of interest in your workplace, it is very easy to escalate into personal attacks and verbal abuse. Even if your colleague is driving you insane, use a firm but polite speech and keep your voice even and devoid of emotional outbursts. You will be taken much more seriously in that way.
4. Do not use abusive language, gestures, and manners
You are a responsible adult, so behave like one in your workplace. Even if you are in a sticky situation and losing your calm, do not use slang, abusive verbal or physical manners, and body language towards your colleagues. Always maintain your professional integrity and assert your feeling, opinion, and argument respectfully.
5. Never personally attack someone
When you are critiquing someone and calling them out on their improper behavior, bad manners, or professional setback, do not attack the person and instead provide constructive criticism to their activities by putting forward your feelings, thoughts, and ideas. For example, instead of saying ‘You are a lazy jerk’, try saying ‘I do not appreciate you leaving your task unfinished.’
6. Always stick to ‘I’ statements
Instead of using ‘you’ statements and focusing on the things one committed in a wrong or improper way, try using ‘I’ statements to let them know, how you feel about them doing something in a way that you found unethical or ill-mannered. In this way, your coworkers will feel less threatened and will not lash out after an accusation.
7. Use acquiescing statements
When you find yourself at the focal point of an attack, personal abuse, or an accusation, do not confront the situation with antagonism. Try to placate the person by using acquiescing statements like “Yes, that might be true, but” or “Yes, your opinion might have merit, but”, and then put forward your own opinion or thoughts.
8. Manage your stress, emotions, and body language
When you are dealing with a problem in the workplace, do not let your stress, frustration, tension, anger get the better of you. Watch your emotions, take a deep breath and manage them, so that your speech, tone, body language do not express your emotional turmoil and instead remain steady and authoritative.
9. Do not compromise your professional opinion and standing
Even if you find yourself in a murky situation or in front of severe criticism or professional disagreement, stick to your professional ground and do not agree with or placate someone just to avoid a confrontation. If your thoughts, ideas, boundaries have been challenged, defend them firmly and do not compromise your professional standing.
10. Repeat until you are heard
When you are not heard inside the boardroom, during a meeting, or during conferences, repeat your phrases and words in a monotonous voice devoid of emotions until you are paid attention to and heard. Logically present your arguments and raise your voice only when it is necessary.
11. Do not beat around the bush
If you need to say something unsavory like a complaint or ask for something like a raise, a bonus, an increment, or participation in an interesting project, just be blunt and say it outright. Beating around the bush will only make you look indecisive and meek. So hold your head high, shoulders straight, and speak unapologetically without worrying.
It takes time and patience to be an assertive but well-mannered professional. Start small, practice these steps, and watch your behavior in the professional space. You will see the changes in no time and will garner appreciation and respect in the professional domain.