Assertiveness Skills

I recently attended an APM webinar where the view of “Assertiveness” did not match my own views.

Assertiveness is one of the qualities of being a good Project Manager. A strong leader is described as an element of good leadership within the Association for Project Management (APM) competence framework.

Assertiveness is also part of good communication, because good assertiveness is clear communication, and the sharing of views and ideals.

Assertiveness is important in the development of a group to a team. It helps a leader to direct the group members without hurting their feelings.

One of the key skills of a Project Manger is making decisions. Being clear and assertive in making those decisions is vital.

What Isn’t Assertiveness:

So, back to that poor APM webinar. The views of the presenter (rather than the APM) described assertiveness as the two things that I think it is not.

Being Bossy: Being a bully, being right all the time, and talking loudly (shouting?) is not being assertive. It is being bossy and a being a bully. It is probably taking advantage of a position, whilst riding roughshod over other peoples feelings and views. This creates winners and losers. It won’t develop a team spirit!

Getting Your Own Way: Being Assertive is not about getting your own way. Being assertive may increase the chances of you getting your own way though!

However, there are some people who like being told what to do. There are some groups and types of people who expect to be told what to do, and will always wait (and do nothing!) until being told what to do. Being assertive (in the right or wrong way!) with this group is expected.

What is Assertiveness?

The Dictionary definition of assertiveness states that:

Someone who is assertive behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe:

Not being assertive is being passive. When you are passive, then things happen to you regardless of your view point. If you can say what you want and believe – confidently, then there is more chance of getting the results that you desire.

How to be Assertive

Assertiveness techniques come in several styles. One approach is to try and change your mind set to be more positive. Another encourages the “broken record” technique of merely repeating your desires.

The one that I was taught takes a three step approach to being assertive.

Here are the three steps:

Listen and Repeat: Listen actively to the others view point, and then repeat back to them using your words their view point. This shows that you have listened, and understand what it is they are requesting. They should feel valued and understood. This also gives you a chance to think through the next two steps! Of course, if they disagree with your summary of their own views, then at least that miscommunication can be rectified.

Link these steps together with “However……” Never use “But” which can sound more confrontational.

Your View Point: State your view point and opinions on the situation.

Suggested Action:  Propose a way forward that might suit both parties. The way forward should be more tailored to your views than the other parties.

Here is an example.

Example of Assertiveness

In this example a team member has been very busy. They have suggested to the project manager that quotes from the suppliers will be obtained next week. These quotes have been outstanding for a number of days already.

“I understand that you are busy, and have not got around to obtaining quotes from suppliers yet.


Your tasks on this project are critical, and other team members are waiting for this urgent pricing information.

Can I suggest that you get the quotes today so that we can progress this. I’ll meet with you at 5:00 tonight to discuss those quotes”


The benefits of assertiveness is getting things done by being clear and respectful. Assertiveness can lead to a Win – Win situation.

Assertiveness should never be confused with aggression. Aggressiveness is being a bossy bully. Assertiveness is calmly and respectfully getting your viewpoint heard.

Posted On: 8th September 2020

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