Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Asserting Yourself: Learn to Speak Up

Have you ever left a meeting or conference thinking, “I wish I had said something?”

You are not alone. People often come up to me and confess that they are hesitant to speak up at meetings. Others mention that when they do say something, no one responds. Check your behavior against this list of 10 key assertiveness points to make sure your voice is heard:

Do you:

1. Establish your presence? Walk into the room as though you belong there. Greet people. If you feel comfortable being in the room, you will feel more confident about saying something at the meeting.

2. Understand the consequences of not speaking up? You want your bosses, colleagues, and customers to view you as competent and credible. If you don’t speak up, they don’t know what you know, and you can become overlooked and irrelevant.

3. Prepare ahead of time? It is easier to say something when you have practiced. Think about the meeting and what may be discussed. Familiarize yourself with what you want to say so that you can say it with confidence when the topic comes up.

4. Speak early? The longer you wait to give your opinion, the harder it will be to speak up. Make a comment or ask a question near the beginning of the meeting.

5. Make your point without asking permission? Do you say, “May I make a point?” When you do, it’s easy for others to think, “No.” Either say, “I have a point,” or simply speak out with your comments.

6. Speak loudly enough to be heard? If you speak softly, your comments may not register with others. Practice increasing your volume. Initially, you may feel that you are shouting, but the chances are that you are finally speaking loudly enough to be heard.

7. Know how to interrupt? Yes, I know, interrupting is generally frowned upon. Yet, in some situations, if you don’t interrupt you won’t get to speak. The easiest way to interrupt is when the other person takes a breath. You then speak up quickly, acknowledge what the person said, and add your thoughts.

8. Avoid giving too much detail? If you belabor your points, people tune out. Say what you need to say in as few words as necessary.

9. Control your body language? Do not wring your hands or play with paper clips or rubber bands. They become distractions and take away from what you are saying. Make sure you look people in the eye. You appear more confident when you make eye contact.

10. Eliminate self-discounting statements? Don’t start your comments with, “It’s only my opinion,” or similar statements. Don’t conclude with, “I don’t know. What do you think?” If you discount yourself, it’s easy for others to discount you as well.

Pachter & Associates offers numerous ways to learn assertive behavior.

Additional information can be found in former blogs: Polite Ways To Avoid Unwanted Conversations and Do You Talk Too Much? Let Me Count The Ways!

Coaching is available in person or via Skype. Seminars and keynotes on Asserting Yourself are given by Barbara Pachter, and her book The Power of Positive Confrontation also discusses assertive behavior.

For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856751.6141 or


  1. Anonymous6/19/2012

    From A Reader:
    I wish I had read this blog twenty-some years ago when I was the Sunday news editor at the paper... or even before that, actually. Ah, well...

  2. Anonymous6/22/2012

    From A Reader:
    This is a great article- but it is so hard to do. I had a boss who told me I interrupted people too much and that it was rude- so a bit gun-shy. But definitely need to be assertive and confident in your convictions/ideas.

  3. Anonymous6/22/2012

    From A Reader:
    Unfortunately, I've never had the problem of asserting myself! I tend to be a bit opinionated but have learned over the years to listen carefully to what others are saying before I open my big mouth. However, I find many of my students don't know how to assert themselves, unless it is through negative rather than positive actions. I try to encourage them by giving them the tools to make small talk, present themselves to others, greet others, and voice their opinions on a variety of topics in a positive rather than negative way. I try to show them how to make other people feel better about themselves when they are together. I think that all contributes to asserting yourself in a positive manner.

  4. Anonymous6/27/2012

    From A Reader:
    The important thing is to prepared always. I notice people are always anxious to move. I like your advice.

  5. Anonymous6/28/2012

    From A Reader:
    Confident people have no problem asserting themselves and speaking up. But it's a whole new ball game with people who have low self esteem. It is sad when people feel their communication skills are not good enough...or their clothes dont match up with the labels others are wearing. It could also be something like a poor set of teeth, a body shape they are unhappy about eg broad hips, a large nose, double chin..all of which would come into focus if the person stood up to give an opinion.
    This is where Image management comes into play..highlight what is good, camouflage what is not. It brings self confidence and the feel good factor back into people's lives. Now that is what will make people stand up and talk.

  6. Thanks for sharing. Definitely something to think about and evaluate. Important information to keep in mind, great article.
    Jamie@ PR Firm

  7. Anonymous7/03/2012

    From A Reader:
    Thanks Barbara, I like your article. I also think that a person needs to feel good about himself or herself and believe that he or she has a voice and a message worth listening to. This is where confidence and a healthy self esteem come in. Putting people at ease by introducing a subject they're familiar with, would certainly bring out their voices. This is like taking people from the known to the unknown.

  8. Anonymous7/09/2012

    From A Reader:
    These tips are great. I especially relate to tip # 3 and Tip # 8. If you don't prepare what to say before hand, you'll find yourself talking too much.
    Another tip I like is "be afraid, but do it anyway.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Anonymous7/09/2012

    From A Reader:
    These tips are great, especially No. 10. Many women have a tendency to do this. It is perceived as having low self-esteem.

  10. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From A Reader:
    #6 really resonates for me, all of my meetings are teleconferences and I find myself getting frustrated when I try to speak up and feel like I'm being talked over. With all the various telephone technologies, it's very easy for people not to hear you even when you think you're speaking loud enough.
    Unfortunately, there are other times when there's someone who just has to talk over everyone else and MUST be heard.


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