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How to be assertive...
How to be assertive

Shrinking violets rarely find their way to the top. If you want to get ahead, you need to be able to make your voice heard. But the good news is that there is no need to morph into Genghis Khan - all you need are confident negotiating skills.

'Assertiveness is about recognising that both you and the other person have rights,' says Amanda Vickers, director of communication and relationship consultancy Speak First.

Being assertive means communicating without getting angry, and getting your voice heard without shouting the odds. However, all of us know there are times when we have been too aggressive, and times when we have been too submissive. Finding the balance is the key:

>> Check your facts Do your research and make sure you know what you are talking about.

>> Plan ahead If you have a tricky meeting coming up, role play the different responses and be ready for them.

>> Prepare and ask good, open questions Asking the right questions is the most reliable way of taking the initiative. And don't be fobbed off.

>> Change your habits

Re-condition and practise your own new reactions to aggression. Build your own 'triggered reactions', giving yourself thinking time to prevent yourself being bulldozed.

>> Mind your language Avoid personal remarks. Instead, take a step back and say 'When you do X, you make me feel Y.'

>> Think positive Visualise yourself behaving in a firmer manner, saying firmer things and asking firm clear questions.

>> Remember your body language Make sure you are sending the right non-verbal messages by sitting up straight, making eye contact, and speaking clearly and evenly. Don't slouch, lean back in your chair - or stare people down.

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