How to bust Impostor Syndrome with Quiet Assertiveness

Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!
5 min readSep 1, 2020

Starting point — what is ‘Quiet Assertiveness’?

Good question. Here are 3 more:

  • What do you think of when you hear the word ‘assertive’?
  • Would you want to be described as ‘assertive’?
  • Do you describe other people as ‘assertive’ — and if so — why?

Was there anything in your answers that veered off towards ‘aggressive’ or ‘bossy’ territory?

In other words — do you have some niggly associations that might hold you back from being fully assertive?

I often talk about calling out the FIBs that stand between us and our full and fabulous impact. Fears, illusions and baggage!

Our associations formed in early years our frequently part of this FIB mix.

Such as — ‘my father was so assertive — but very cold’. ‘My teacher was forever telling me to stop being so assertive — and let others have a chance.’ ‘My mum always used to say that assertive women ended up sad and lonely!’

I can’t walk inside your head — but I know I can’t be alone!

Somewhere there might be a little niggle.

So — how about we shake up the word association and add the word ‘quiet’ to assertive — what do we get now?

When you are quietly assertive, you invite calm clarity. You do not need to be aggressive to be assertive — far from it! Time to release and grow your quietly assertive self.

Being described as quietly assertive would feel good. For those who describe themselves as introverts — the word ‘quiet’ might sound rather appealing.

2 different faces — aggressive assertion and quiet assertion

Assertive is not aggressive!

But — hang on — how can we be assertive if we are being quiet?

Think about these 3 quietly assertive behaviours:

  1. Listening.
  2. Questioning.
  3. Calmly focusing on the task.

If you were on the receiving end of these communication behaviours — you would feel you were in good hands — this person was steering the ship well and you were both heading in the right direction! In other words — they were quietly assertive.

Using the ‘perspective’ tool is always helpful! Turn the tables — ‘how would I feel if someone was being like this….’?

Next ingredient — what is ‘Impostor Syndrome’?

Much has been written and said on this topic — but that doesn’t mean there is a concrete definitive definition!

When considering how we bust Impostor Syndrome with ‘quiet assertion’ — think for a moment about these 3 ‘feeling’ ingredients of impostor syndrome:

  1. I must tow the line or they might reject me.
  2. I don’t think my ideas are ‘special’ enough.
  3. I mustn’t be too good at this or they will catch me out.


How does quiet assertiveness bust impostor syndrome?

I refer you to my scribble.

Virtous cycle — ‘Be assertive, good results, feel good, increased self-esteem’

Spot the virtuous cycle:

  • You are assertive (or quietly assertive) and you
  • get good results, so you
  • feel good and this
  • increases your self-esteem

Every time you go through this cycle you:

  • weaken the power of your non-constructive inner dialogue.
  • listen with genuine curiosity — not with ‘what will I say next to sound ‘right’?’
  • question with genuine curiosity and purpose — because you are focused on them more than your over-thinking stuff!
  • focus on progressing and planning — rather than procrastinating and perfecting!
  • bash impostor syndrome with your quiet assertiveness skills.

3 quiet assertive tips to try out for real.

Over the next few weeks — give these a try. It is by doing that we create new habits and offer different scripts to our brains.

  1. Take something you are fascinated by — passionate about — have opinions on… and apply an aspect of this to a post you see that takes a slightly different view. Yes — engage, show you are listening and curious — but pop your idea into the comments — not in a rude way — in a quietly assertive way.
'This is a fascinating topic - and your post is really thought-provoking. I have a slightly different perspective.. hope you don't mind me popping an alternative view in here...'
  1. Keep to your time allocation for your online meeting! Pull the focus back and sum up — with respect and clarity — warmly! Here is an example:
'I could talk about this for hours to be honest - I am really interested in hearing your thoughts. However - I am also aware of the time - and I know we are both busy people. So - let's clarify the main ..... and put a definite date in the diary for.... I will feed back my sense of what you need in a proposal...'
  1. Say no nicely! Yes there is a way. When you feel yourself drifting into ‘people pleasing’ ‘too generous’ places… try this form of saying no to a ‘favour’ or even a ‘job’!
That is tempting.....and I am now forcing myself to resist the temptation! I know I couldn't commit the time to this right now - but I do have a couple of resources that might be helpful.... I do have someone I think might be able to help....

How do you feel about ‘quiet assertiveness’? Are you already doing it — without realising it? Can you recognise this quality in someone you know — or a public figure?

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments!)

I work with clients one to one on this — plenty of unwrapping and experimenting. I also offer coaching for employees who have a sales or leadership role — but hold themselves back in some way — maybe because they are more comfortable being quiet — and don’t see how to be assertive quietly!

Take advantage of my resources!

Book a virtual cuppa — introduction chat

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Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!

What if we spotted and sorted our 'self squashing ®' - what if we used curiosity as an anitdote to comparisonitis and self-consciousness? Let's see!