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    WomenSpeak by Shalini Govil-Pai

  • Q: Assertive vs Aggressive?

    A: Assertive: when you can express yourself and take the time to understand the other person and work things together. Aggressive: when the person doesn't attempt to understand the other and is focused more on their individual self.

    Q: Are organizations leaning towards an assertive culture?

    A: Today, most of the corporate cultures are thriving on collaboration and not on aggression. There is more focus on EQ wherein one wants to understand where the other person is coming from, their thoughts, and how things can be made workable. There is a depleting emphasis on aggression with things shifting more towards collaboration. Invariably, women are known to demonstrate more EQ.

    Q: Is there a gender bias in labeling?

    A: There is no denying that a gender bias exists when it comes to labeling. It is sometimes more acceptable for men to be labelled aggressive. Regardless, the key should be to understand the goal, what are we trying to achieve. At times, being aggressive can enable one to achieve those. But really, one needs to figure it out based on the situation. Many a times, aggressive behaviors can be counter productive. Don't try to be aggressive if not needed. There is a fine balance to understand how much one can push. Being aggressive doesn't mean you will get what you want. There are situations, however, when this trait might be needed. For example, when someone wants to just continue complaining or keep on whining. In that case, aggressive behavior can work. It is the right kind of aggression to move the conversation forward.

    Q: How to erase the aggressive label?

    A: It is hard as there is a pattern built. Best way is to move to a different environment- group/ company so one can start on a level playing field. On the other hand, just keep at it with seeking feedback, and implementing those recommendations. One can also seek support from a mentor or a colleague to remove that sticker.

    Q: Tips to enhance assertiveness

    A: Assertiveness can be inculcated. Be open to the person you want to change. Give them concrete feedback on where they need to improve and how. One can role play the situation to identify and bridge the issues. As an individual, believe you are special, that your opinion counts, and others want to hear it. This positivity will build and foster your confidence and hence your ability to assert and convey your opinion with clarity and conviction. Be deliberate.

    Q: Being assertive with Seniors

    A: To apply this technique with seniors, one needs to be a little cautious. Thoroughly understand where they are coming from and why. What is their intent? How are they approaching an issue? As a subordinate, be strategic and align your goals to theirs. You can still get what you want by going along their way first.

    Q: Your success recipe

    A: A great family that supported my career and my decisions. And, access to mentors who were there to pull me out during my career dips and plateaus.

    Q: Your parting advise

    A: Be yourself. Don't emulate someone else. You are unique and your individual opinion matters. Seek out mentors to facilitate your career journey.