Signs You’re Not Assertive in Meetings and How You Can be

Signs You’re Not Assertive in Meetings and How You Can be [Guest Post]

Let’s face it, there’s a certain level of anxiety that festers upon entering a meeting.

Due to their setting it can make people feel like taking the back seat rather than speaking up when they have something to say.

Are you finding it hard to represent yourself in a meeting?

You’re certainly not alone.

It’s possible to sharpen your confidence and get your voice heard.

When you identify the habits that are putting you in an “agreeable” state of mind, you’ll be able to break free from people pleasing and voice your concerns, opinions and ideas for the benefit of the wider business.

Firstly – let’s look at the reasons you’re not being assertive:

You feel like you cannot disagree with others in meetings

It’s important to realise that your presence in a meeting means your input is important to the wider success of the business.

Your views and opinions are needed to tackle problems and generate new ideas.

Disagreeing doesn’t mean starting a feud with another colleague.

It’s possible to disagree politely whilst offering constructive feedback by showing you understand and respect their point of view.

For example, you might say “I’m just checking that I understand, you’re proposing to ….”  And then you could say something like “While I understand your idea and reasons, I feel a different approach could be more productive.” 

You agree to take on extra work because you can’t say no

Saying no can make you feel like you’re not a team player or unwilling to collaborate. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Saying no in front of others in a meeting room can be daunting, but you must remind yourself of your other responsibilities and projects.

If you’re in a situation where you genuinely want to take on extra work but know you can’t deliver it on time then simply saying “Yes, I can take on that action point, but because of my current workload, I’m not going to be able to deliver that for two weeks.  Is there anyone else who could get it done sooner?”  – is both polite, honest and garners respect from your colleagues.

You keep opinions to yourself

As mentioned, your expertise is a huge asset to a business, more so in a meeting.

We get it.

Feelings of rejection when your ideas are shot down in flames isn’t a nice feeling but gathering as much evidence as possible and asking why when things don’t work in your favour only helps build your confidence in the long run.

You find it hard to get a word in edgeways

If you’re normally quiet in meetings, then speaking up can throw everyone off.

Eyes turn to you and you feel your face flush with heat.

But there are ways to deflect these anxious feelings, such as sitting up right, leaning slightly forward and keeping hands visible on the table. This shows that you’re open to being in the discussion and have something to say.

If you still feel like you won’t get a word in, speak to the facilitator privately and mention that you have some points you’d like to discuss on the agenda.


How to be assertive in meetings

Learn the difference between aggression and assertion

It’s a common misconception that loud(er) people are aggressive or pushy, however being assertive in meetings involves being neither of those things.

Being assertive means believing in your values and confidence to voice your thoughts to those around you.

You needn’t “raise” your voice or rudely interrupt others to be heard.

Simply responding “I disagree. This is what I had in mind based on…” is assertive, honest and shows you have backed up your statement instead of making an irrational comment for the sake of it.

Watch, learn and jump in with two feet

Asking questions in a meeting can put both the receiver and you in the hot seat.

In order to prepare for these scenarios – make a list of questions or topics before the meeting that you’d like to ask if they’re not answered.

Having them clearly laid out in front of you means you’re less likely to stumble on your words.

The more you practise this method the less nervous you’ll feel nervous and it will be easier to become assertive.

Take note of your current behaviour

If you feel unconfident, then this will likely show through your body language.

Think slouched posture, fidgeting and looking down instead of right in front of you.

Keeping your hands visible on the table, sitting tall with a slight lean forward is half the battle to becoming an assertive employee.

Make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to – but not for too long to avoid any awkwardness. To combat this, look around the room to gauge others reactions.

Stop apologising

“This might sound silly, but”

“Apologies if this is a stupid question…”

Sound familiar? Did you know that starting off sentences like these makes you appear unassertive?

Apologising too much, even if something is your fault, can make people lose confidence in your abilities.

We obsess over coming across courteous and polite when, your question/s are just as valid as the person sat next to you.

Never feel like you have to apologies for asking “too many” questions either.

You were hired for a specific role and asking questions means you want to be thorough and do the job well.


Thanks Christina! Some wise words in this blog post.

If you want to show your company your worth, sitting there timidly in a meeting is never going to help.

Don’t be rude, but be assertive.

Take the tips from this blog post and let us know how it goes.

Good luck!

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