Why being assertive is vital for success in business – and in life

Martin port

By Martin Port

23 February 2023

Anyone can start a business, I truly believe that. But to be successful in business, you need one character trait above all others: assertiveness.

What is an assertive person?

Someone who is not afraid to go after what they want. They are confident and able to express themselves clearly to others. They do not take no for an answer. When they run into problems, they don’t give up, they keep trying to find solutions until they succeed.

Assertive people are never aggressive. They do not exaggerate their abilities – they admit that they can’t do everything. They are goal-orientated and don’t get distracted easily. They also favour logic over emotion – if you take things personally, you’re less likely to risk rejection.

At BigChange, we reward and value the assertiveness of our people. When colleagues take the initiative, or go the extra mile (when they could easily have clocked off for the day instead), we notice. That’s why we host our annual BigChange awards ceremony, celebrating those who give their all. Without people like these, organisations falter.

Most people could work on their assertiveness. We know when we should make that phone call, push back on that offer, say yes when we can’t be bothered, or think of a better deal. We all have that little voice inside our heads that pipes up with, ‘Well, you could…’ But many people choose to ignore that instinct and take the easy route.

Assertiveness is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Ever had a day where you start smashing out all your tasks, and as each is finished, you become more creative and more forceful in resolving the next?

I have spent my whole life practicing – and now, I don’t hesitate. If a customer says they are about to sign with someone else, I refuse to lose, and keep trying to win that business. I don’t always follow the process – some rules are made to be broken – and will move heaven and earth to help a customer.

The ability to assert yourself is so powerful – one of the best things anyone could learn. According to this study by Harvard Business School, assertiveness is among the big five character traits that can benefit the entrepreneur.

I think it’s so important to feel that you have given your all in every situation, and to train yourself to learn from failures rather than to fear them. I know it’s easier for some than others – if you are shy or introverted, picking up the phone can seem like an impossible task. But we can all make small incremental improvements over time.

So, what actions should you take today? How could you be more assertive in work and in life. Make your move!

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