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18 Sep

Girl Power: 4 key tips for being more assertive

It’s the age of feminism and equality, and we love that women are finally starting to get some of the recognition they deserve. However, it’s not always easy to show some woman power in the workplace, especially when there’s a damaging stereotype that women who exert power or leadership are “bossy”, “aggressive” or “moody”. This isn’t true, of course, but when women are raised to be seen and not heard, it can be hard to break out of the boxes we’re put into.

At Cohorted, we believe that every woman should be able to show their power, but we also know it can be scary to try this, so we’ve got 4 tips to help you show your assertiveness without making any bold, life-altering decisions you’re not ready for.

Tip #1: Stop apologising, girl

It’s a classic mistake to make; apologising when it isn’t needed. We’ve probably all done it. But why? If you’ve ever found yourself apologising for bumping into a mannequin on a shop floor, needing to interrupt someone in conversation or for simply taking up space, you’re probably over-apologising. So, our first tip is to just plain stop it. There’s no need to apologise for sending an email too early in the morning or missing a call on your mobile at work.
It’s not easy to do, but why not try giving yourself a Sorry Jar, just like a swear jar for children. Every time you apologise unnecessarily, donate some spare change to your Sorry Jar. Then, you could donate the cash you accumulate at the end of each month to a women’s charity or local shelter. It’s a win-win.

Tip #2: Hedges are for gardens, not for requests

What we mean here is that you shouldn’t pull your punches when you’re asking for things to be done. So often, women will write emails or ask people to complete a task with what is called a hedge in their sentences. For example:

  • “If you’re not too busy…”
  • “When you find the time…”
  • “Would you mind if…”

These hedges make your requests seem less important and give people the opportunity to deprioritise your work, meaning it might not get done when you need it to. Instead, try using specific requests with clear deadlines:

  • “This needs doing by the end of the day.”
  • “Please could you get this back to me by next week.”
  • “I’d appreciate your attention to this.”

These are still polite but demonstrate a required timeline and a clear request, meaning people can’t just flake on you or let you down any more.

Tip #3: Nuh-uh, nope, no way.

In short, learn to say no. It sounds simple, but most of us know that refusing to do something, whether because you’re too busy, it’s not in your work remit or simply because you don’t believe it’s achievable, is very difficult. Sure, don’t constantly refuse work being asked of you by your manager or team, but learning when and how to say no to tasks is an amazing skill. Turning down work based on your time restraints, existing deadlines or a lack of information is completely valid, and you should feel comfortable to reject these requests. If you’re not sure how best to articulate this, try some of the below suggestions:

  • “Unfortunately, I’ve got too much on right now to take this on as well. However, my colleagues would be happy to help.”
  • “Before I can commit to this, I’ll need more information about the task. Once you’ve provided this, I’d be happy to help/my team would be happy to help.”
  • “I’m working on a big project right now with a set of deadlines, so I wouldn’t be able to give this project any time right now.”

These responses, and ones like them, give a perfect example of keeping your rejections polite whilst firm, showing that you mean business.

Tip #4: Confidence is key

If you can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing and you’re confident in doing it, you’re already proving your worth to your colleagues. Showing that you’re capable, and that you’ve got enough belief in yourself to achieve the task at hand, will instil confidence in your work from your team and stakeholders. Confidence also means you’re less likely to get questioned on the work you’re doing, and if anyone does happen to ask you what you’re up to, you’ll be in a better position to let them know that everything’s under control and that you know what you’re doing.
Acting confident, even when you might not be feeling it, will also help your own self-esteem. Faking it until you make it is a legitimate strategy and will help you recognise your own worth in the office. So, let it shine through and you’ll soon be riding high on the success that your newfound self-assurance is bringing you.

If you’re really struggling at work with an inequality balance, make sure you raise it with your HR team or your manager, because that’s completely unacceptable. But if you’re just looking to assert yourself more, then try some of these tips to put yourself out there and start feeling the girl power.

Katie Nicholls

Katie is a freelance content writer that specialises in blog articles, CV recreation and website copy. She has an English Language and Linguistics degree and experience across a variety of publications, and aims to help businesses and individuals stand out from the crowd with dazzling content. In her free time, she loves video gaming, music, writing fiction and riding her motorcycle.

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