Being assertive without being pushy or bossy (especially as a woman) can be exceptionally tricky. Check out these three strategies to help even the most tentative employee make sure her voice is heard.
1. Make a short, simple statement about the other person’s behavior and what you would like to see changed. In doing so you can (hopefully) get the other person’s attention while minimizing their defensiveness.
2. Explain how the behavior is impacting you negatively. This person may have no understanding that what they are saying/doing is affecting your day or project until you let them know.
3. Wrap up with a statement about your feelings. This may make your counterpart uncomfortable, but the reality of what your feeling should make your message more powerful.
These tips, while intended to be applied with a challenging colleague, may also help you make your voice heard while working with a client who is perhaps hesitant to take your advice about a sustainability plan. It’s important that along with being assertive about your plan, you also practice persuasion techniques to gain support for your efforts and in a lot of ways these tips align with being assertive.
Remember there are ways — even when you have heard a firm negative from a coworker, client or supervisor — to use persuasion to change minds, but as noted in Practice Persuasion Techniques to Get Your Sustainability Effort Launched this is not a one step process, either. If it were possible to present a single argument and change someone’s mind, wouldn’t life be a little easier?
In order to persuade your client to tackle the awesome sustainability plan you have created for them (or for a colleague to support your efforts in the workplace) you need to develop a counterargument to their strongest held positions. You also have to increase their exposure to supporting evidence for the new belief, provide information from multiple sources and address the emotional attachment — which is often the hardest part. It’s possible that the feeling of “being pushed in a corner” or a sense of being manipulated will cause a rebound where the individual instead doubles down on the original decision based on the discomfort of having their belief network shaken. Tread firmly, but don’t make it personal and don’t push too hard, too fast.
“What's key, at any rate, is to recognize that people's active resistance to efforts to change their mind doesn't mean that those efforts aren't working. Belief change is a war of attrition, not a search for the knock-down argument that gets someone to see things differently in one fell swoop,” said Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas, Austin.
So remember, whether you aren’t feeling listened to in a team meeting or by a client who’s not embracing your sustainability plan for their office, you can make your voice be heard.