EQ Check: Are You Overly Assertive or Too Passive?

A young dynamic VP had a seat at the leadership table in his company, it wasn’t going well. He wasn’t speaking up and the more seasoned leaders were questioning his ability.  Why? Because he had yet to speak up in any meeting. Thankfully, instead of letting him go, the company called me in.

“They think I don’t have any thoughts and I have many. I just didn’t think I should speak up!”

As this story shows, if you don’t speak up, it can be detrimental to you career – whether you’re in the C-suite or fresh out of college. This is where assertiveness, an important EQ attribute, comes in. Similar to both self-expression and independence, your assertiveness can range from low to high. So, which side of the spectrum do you find yourself?

A person with low levels of assertiveness…

  • Is unable to assert their own thoughts, ideas, and opinions
  • Tends to listen to everyone else’s comments and waits to vocalize their own

A person with high levels of assertiveness…

  • Vocalizes their ideas constantly
  • Will interrupt others to express an opinion
  • Focuses solely on their own solution

Of course, there needs to a middle ground.

Imagine that we all have the same size box around us. It’s a bit in front of, next to, and behind you. With low assertiveness, you don’t even come close to taking up the space within your box. On the other hand, if you are very assertive you spill out of your own box and overpower others.

The goal here is to fill up your own box so when you’re in a meeting or with others you can thoughtfully contribute while still listening to and respecting another person’s ideas.

How to increase assertiveness

If your assertiveness is low, no matter what exercises you do, you will never get to the other tipping point—you’ll never be too assertive or pushy. But with practice, you can get better about voicing your own thoughts at the right times. Here’s some ways to do so:

  • Share something once every day. One strategy is committing to share your thoughts, opinions, or ideas once a day—either socially or professionally. It doesn’t have to be emotional, either. You could be in a group talking about dinner plans, and simply voice your opinion on the matter.
  • Practice saying no to something. If you don’t agree with something—speak up! Simply say, “I don’t agree with that” or “I’m not going to sign that.” It doesn’t even matter whether or not you actually agree—just tell yourself that you’ll say no for the practice. It could be to something silly, too, like “No thanks, I don’t want that donut.”

How to tone down assertiveness

If you’re too assertive, it may be time to rein those opinions in. Try the following:

  • Count to five. Before jumping in with your two cents, try counting to five silently to allow someone else, who might have a lower level of assertiveness, to have space to give their opinion.
  • Gauge body language. Similar to reining in a high level of self expression, watch the body language of the person you are trying to convince. If their arms are crossed or they’re not paying attention, it might be time to back down and give them some room to offer a counter opinion.

Assertiveness doesn’t have to be uncomfortable—and with the right balance, you can effectively voice your opinions and even sway your audience to your ideas. How would it benefit your career if you worked on improving your EQ in this area?

If you want more strategies to improve your assertiveness, contact us.

It is beneficial to take an EQ assessment to find out more about your EQ strengths and areas to improve. We’d love to help, so contact us today.

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Phone(703) 434-3990

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