Five Steps To Become More Confident And Assertive

Career Climbers / 14th December 2016

Renowned Columbia Business School Professor Adam Galinsky synthesizes more than two decades of research into a powerful, compelling, and viral TED Talk

Multiple times every day, people in homes and offices across the country are faced with a daunting decision: do I speak up and risk being penalized by, or embarrassed in front of, my friends, family, colleagues, or superiors; or do I remain silent, refrain from influencing a conversation or decision, and go unnoticed? In a new TED Talk titled “How to Speak up for Yourself,” Columbia Business School Professor and negotiations expert Adam Galinsky offers viewers an answer to this time-weathered dilemma.

Through vivid and real-world examples colored with rich humor and endearing emotion – including his early days as a first-time father – Galinsky offers viewers five steps to follow to increase their power, overcome insecurity, and boost their assertiveness in public settings. The talk was the most viewed on the TED website during its first week of release, and it has been viewed more than 1.2 million times in just three weeks.

“Each of us has something called a range of acceptable behavior. When we stay within this range we are rewarded; when we step outside of this range we are punished by being dismissed, demeaned, or ostracized,” says Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. “To speak up, we need to both understand our range and also learn how and when to expand it. The key thing that determines that range more than anything else: your power.”

Galinsky provides a series of five tools that can be used to help increase power and improve assertiveness.

Advocate for others (aka, the “Mama Bear Effect”). Advocating for others is easier than advocating for oneself. Thus, people can speak up and use behaviors that traditionally fall outside their range of acceptable behavior. Doing so helps people not only begin to understand their own ranges but also know how to expand them.
Perspective-Taking. Although this may sound easy, Galinsky calls perspective-taking one of the hardest – but most important – tools people have for better understanding and expanding their ranges of acceptable behavior. Research by Galinsky and others show that by better understanding what someone else really wants, that person is more likely to give you what you really want.
Signal flexibility. The most effective way to signal flexibility is by giving people a choice. Providing people with a range of options and/or alternatives lowers their defenses and makes them more receptive to your point of view. Galinsky notes that this tool can work in a variety of situations, from selling a product to parenting a child.
Gain allies. People feel most comfortable when they have social support in an audience. Galinsky advises that two easy ways a person can build allies are to be an advocate for others (see number one) and to ask people for their advice.
Display expertise and show passion. Displaying expertise garners confidence from others, which in turn increases one’s power and expands one’s range of acceptable behavior. Audiences grant greater permission for people to speak up when they display passion for a topic.

“Speaking up can be risky, but these tools will help lower your risk,” says Galinsky. “Whether you’re offering advice to a family member or friend, or deciding whether to confront your employer about a pertinent issue at work, these steps will help increase your confidence, elevate your power, and improve your assertiveness by expanding your range of acceptable behavior.”

To learn more about Professor Galinsky’s research, visit

To view the full TED Talk by Professor Galinsky, please click here or visit

About Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky has published more than 200 scientific papers about topics related to how power affects performance, negotiations, decision-making, diversity and ethics. He currently serves as Chair of the Management Division at Columbia Business School and was recently selected as one of the World’s 50 Best B-School Professors by the business school news site Poets & Quants. He was a speaker at the TEDx New York program on September 10, 2016. His talk was featured on the homepage, a distinction earned by less than one percent of all TED talks, and has been viewed more than 1.2 million times as of this posting.

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