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5 Tips to Be Assertive, Not Passive and Not Aggressive


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When I was a young woman, I was advised by a boss to take an assertiveness training class because I was “too nice.” I can’t believe how much the things I remember from that class have helped me in life, and the tips and ideas keep coming back to me. Being assertive (which is always polite, unlike being aggressive) really helps here as a seller on Fiverr so I thought I’d share a few tips I use regularly.

  1. Be clear on your boundaries and stick to them at least 90% of the time.

    This is knowing what you will do and what you won’t do in your work. Such as, “I will edit your writing but I won’t write it for you.” Or, "I will do a 30 second voiceover, not a 60 second one, for $5."

    It’s also knowing when you will work and when you won’t. For example, maybe you decide to take every Sunday off to spend with family. Set up that boundary and find ways to stick to it.

    I say 90% here because there is always room for some exceptions. Maybe you feel like doing a 24 hour delivery without charging an extra fee, just because the buyer asked nicely and it’s a quick job. That can happen too.

  2. Sound like a broken record if needed.

    This is one of my favorite tips from that assertiveness training, one I’ve never forgotten (it works in parenting too!). Here at Fiverr, we have that great “quick response” feature, which makes repeating the same polite message over and over again easy. For example, for any SPAM messages, just make a quick response that says, “Sorry, I’m not interested.” Or if you have clients ask you to do something you can’t or don’t do, just reply in a similar way every time: “Sorry, but that’s beyond the scope of my gig. Thanks for asking though!” Or how about when a buyer asks you to discount your price? Just say the same thing every time: “Sorry, but I always charge the same amount for ‘X’ work.”

  3. Always be honest and straightforward. Be respectful and don’t take things personally.

    Don’t dig yourself into a hole by telling un-truths or partial truths. And realize that often a difficult situation or person isn’t your fault but is about something outside of your control. Being honest is a way to assert ourselves, our boundaries, and our needs.

  4. Use “I” statements.

    In the examples above, you will notice I don’t say, “You are asking me to do too much work for too little money.” Instead, I used “I” statements: “I will do this and not that…” or “I always charge $5 for ‘X’ amount of work.”

  5. Stay calm.

    When the other person goes too far and you can’t be polite any more, don’t lose your cool and get aggressive with anyone-ever. This is a terrible business practice and never ends well. Contact Customer Support if needed. Or just end the dialogue if you can and you aren’t going to lose anything by doing so.

    Anyone else have assertive tips that have worked for you? Or maybe anything NOT to do?
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