We all need to learn assertiveness in the workplace. We need to stand up to bullying in all its forms and to learn to assert ourselves. Body language is the key.

You can change your life by learning to use body language. If you control the signals you send out then the workplace bully will be confused and will find another victim. Assertiveness in the workplace is your key to a happier work life.

Human communication takes many forms. Even in a conversation between two people only a tenth of the communication is in the words used. Other aspects include tone and inflection of voice, facial expressions, speed of delivery, how we stand in relation to each other, head position and pauses in the conversation.

There are always people in every workplace who will bully those who they see as weak. For weak you should read unassertive.

Assertive people get more of their own way more of the time and get on faster in life.

Learning Assertiveness in the Workplace

If we learn to control each of the unconscious signals we send out these new habits will quickly become internalised and unconscious, we will learn to send out signals of our newfound confidence without even thinking about it.


Moving slowly is the key here. Walk, never run, and walk slowly. Walking slowly shows people that you are not afraid to be seen or to be noticed.

Even sitting at your desk control all your movements, make them deliberately slower.

Pick up the phone slowly; arrange your jacket on your chair slowly. Tidy your desk in a deliberate and slow fashion.

Avoid excessive hand movements while you are talking to someone. Never fidget. Hold something in one hand and concentrate on not moving it during the conversation.


Slow your speech down. Only talk if you have something to say, otherwise listen, but listen actively, devote 100% of your attention to what is being said. Never say anything unless you are sure people are actively listening. If you have something to say it is important enough for them to listen to.

Avoid rushing what you have to say, it IS interesting.

Use Silence to your advantage. Most people hate silences in a conversation and rush to fill them with worthless words. If you have something to say, say it in the fewest possible words then leave a silence. If you are on the spot for something then leave a silence before answering your boss, speak slowly and leave short silences in your defence. All of this shows that you are 200% certain that you are in the right, and if you are SO certain then your accuser begins to doubt himself. Silences are more powerful than any words at getting your message across. Say what you have to say, then say nothing. NEVER apologise for something you did not do.

Body Language

Smile. Smiling changes your tone of voice and is another sign of confidence; always stand up and smile when using the phone. Worried non-assertive people do not smile. Smile and the whole world smiles with you. Politicians always "smile" because they have been trained in its effectiveness as a dominance tactic.

Keep still. Avoid shuffling your feet and wringing your hands. Being still equates to calm and confidence, the qualities you are trying to convey.

Keep you hands visible as well as still. Putting your hands in your pockets is a sign that you do not know what to do with your hands, that you are nervous.

Keep your thumbs visible. This one sounds stupid, but watch any film of a national leader giving a speech. He or she will use hand gestures with thumbs pointing upwards. This is a very primitive and exceedingly powerful dominance gesture that will totally change the way people think about you. Watch footage of Martin Luthor King and you will see a body language master at work.

Train yourself never to touch your face or head while you are talking. This is a sign that you are being untruthful.

If you are standing while you talk to someone then stand in the open, never behind a desk or partition; stand away from walls, too. Think of this as not hiding, not protecting your back. Confident people see no need to protect their backs, figuratively or otherwise.

Never fold your arms if you are in a listening or discussion situation. It is a sign of disagreement and although you might well disagree, either say so, or do not let it show.

If you copy someone's body language you will go up in their estimation, buy be subtle in using this deliberately. It is a sign that you agree with whatever they are saying.

Be careful how close you stand to someone in a discussion. Every society has its own perception of personal space. You want to be seen as assertive, not aggressive. If you are too close for comfort people will step back, take this as a sign and adjust your distance accordingly.


Expect respect and you will be respected. You can control some aspects of your body language, but there are many small and subtle signs that none of us can control. Our expectations affect our subconscious body language. Others read the signs we send out and draw conclusions from them. Adjusting the major body language signs, as detailed above, while not adjusting your expectations will confuse people and spoil all your good work.

You must expect people to listen when you speak. You must expect respect. You must expect to succeed. Self-confidence is half the battle.

Boost your self-confidence before applying everything here. Buy new clothes for work in a different colour or style, change your hairstyle and anything else about your image that makes you feel good about yourself. Buy new shoes and take up a steady exercise regime. Even walking will improve your posture. Buy a hat if you do not usually wear a hat. Wear braces and flaunt them instead of a belt. Wear a skirt instead of trousers. You are not the same man or woman as you were, let people see that you are different.