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How to be assertive with your clients, without being rude

by Yellow 490 Days

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Being assertive is completely different from being aggressive. Being assertive means standing up for yourself, but not at the expense of others. Training yourself to be assertive can truly benefit your workflow and self-confidence, especially when faced with persistent or difficult clients. But how can you say NO to a client without being rude or hurting your own career? Here's an introduction on mastering the art of assertiveness.

Learn how to say 'NO'

Don't feel obliged to accommodate every single person who wants to take some of your time. One small commitment after another will gradually build up and lead you to stress out over having too much to do and having too many clients to please. Set your priorities, be aware of your schedule and, if you need to say NO, say it firmly without beating around the bush or apologising profusely. After all, you have the right to reject a project you don't have time for or a suggestion you don't believe in.

Be polite yet firm

Your approach towards difficult clients should never be aggressive or hurtful. Be true to yourself and stand your ground, but communicate your side of the coin politely. Be sincere, explain your honest opinion to your client and suggest alternatives. Show your client that you respect and appreciate their request, but don't talk down to them. Nor should you sugar coat your response by being extremely nice and apologetic. Balancing assertiveness with good manners and appropriate wording is absolutely key.

Remember that you are your own boss

No one should be able to control the way you operate and run your own business apart from yourself. Your client is not your superior, so take charge of the situation and maintain your worth. When clients attempt to unfairly whittle down your prices or request additional services, be confident in the quality of your work and demand that it is respected.

Be the expert and own it

When you think that a client's plan is almost impossible to fulfil or potentially dangerous to execute, don't be afraid to let them know. Honesty really is the best policy, especially if you have experience and knowledge to back it up. This is more about looking out for the best interests of both your client and your own business, rather than being cocky or arrogant.

Value your time

Never sacrifice other important commitments for persistent clients if you cannot satisfy their request. Time management is essential in everything, including managing your multiple commitments. Lay out your schedule, look for gaps and be realistic when faced with client requests that are almost impossible to carry out by their desired deadline.

Be OK with walking away as the last resort

If it becomes too difficult to reach some sort of agreement with a relentless client, re-negotiate with them to the best of your abilities. If this still doesn't work, consider walking away. As long as you break ties with a client on good terms, don't be afraid of moving on to new (and hopefully better) clients. You pave the way for the success of your own business. So don't let clients get you down just because they fail to agree with the way you work. Being assertive can be extremely challenging, but standing up for yourself in a confident and professional manner is essential in the business world.  

If being assertive in your career is not your strong point, you might want to look at any potentially helpful training programmes that are out there.
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