How to be Assertive but Likable

I secretly find it hilarious that people like Drake and Taylor Swift still wake up with morning breath. It must be hard to be so famous yet so ordinary.

I mean, can you imagine Donald Trump with constipa….never mind.

I have high profile folks on my mind because of a chance meeting with one of Forbes most powerful women–Andrea Jung. I had heard about how she became the first female CEO of Avon. So I stalked her waited patiently for an opportunity to connect with her.

Picture of Reese Witherspoon, Michelle_Obama, Hillary Clinton and Andrea Jung (2010)
Andrea Jung (far right) with a few other lovely ladies

When we eventually “bumped” into each other, I asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. She answered every single one of them with the grace and polish you would expect from any former Fortune 500 CEO.

Funny enough, the most valuable thing I took away from that conversation had nothing to do with her answers.

Here’s the thing. I grew up in a culture that has perfected the art of interruption. Engaging in multiple conversations at the same time is the ultimate sign of a good time. Why allow people complete their sentences when you can interject yours? Why limit yourself to one conversation at a time when you can handle seven?

Yep, you guessed it.

I innocently carried this habit into my meeting with Andrea Jung. After about five minutes, I finally caught on. This woman would finish her sentences regardless of how eager I was to interrupt with my million dollar ideas. You could drive a tractor over Andrea and she would still finish whatever she was saying–with a smile.

I was humbled, embarrassed, amused. All at the same time.

She never called me out. Never made me feel bad. Didn’t cause a scene. She just firmly asserted her authority in the situation. She was assertive (wouldn’t be interrupted) but likeable (always smiled).

Here’s the key: Don’t allow people randomly interrupt you when you’re saying something important–but do it with tact and a friendly smile.

Since that meeting, I have taken the liberty to pull an Andrea Jung on all sorts of people. Colleagues, authority figures, acquaintances, and even relatives. Don’t worry, I know better than to do this to my mother (hi mom).

Andrea didn’t just teach me to listen patiently before speaking. She also gave me an important tool for communicating assertively. Use this tool with good judgment and care.

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