Ask the Community: Asserting Yourself Gracefully

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Breaking Barriers

We asked our community what advice they would give to others about a variety of topics. Here’s the first in our series!

What are some of the best phrases and expressions you’ve come across for asserting yourself or challenging an idea gracefully?


“What’s the goal we’re trying to solve?” :Let’s think about the user.”
-Tara T.

I will usually challenge someone by saying, “I see your point, although from my perspective….” It acknowledges that you understand what that person said and that you hear them, but also acknowledges that you are bringing a different perspective to the table. You can’t refute someone having a different perspective or personal experience. This doesn’t say that the person is wrong per se, but gives you room to validate your own ideas as well.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”- Alice Walker
Christine N

Respond with “Yes, and….” in place of “Yes, but …”. Definitely, state your opinion, but do it in a way that won’t immediately prompt the other person to disagree.
-W Kramer

I try to acknowledge the merits of the idea first, indicate that I hadn’t thought about it that way, and then ask for opinions on an alternative idea. You don’t want to challenge ideas in a way that makes others hesitant to offer ideas in the future. The more comfortable your team members are at offering ideas, the more likely you are to generate a unique and powerful product/solution.
Juliana W.

I have had some thoughts about what you have proposed and would like to share a few ideas if you are open to discussing them.
Renee V.

“That’s good. But to really be awesome, we could…” If you’re in a meeting with lots of talkative folks, raise your hand high and keep it raised until someone acknowledges you.
Jen B.

I often find it helps to start with “I hear that” and maybe reiterate a bit of what was said, because it shows you are considering what was being put forth, but have differing ideas.
Rhiannon C.

“That’s an interesting point you’re making. Does anyone else in the group feel the same way?” This phrase is remarkably powerful in a dynamic group setting, because it gives you the ability to redirect the conversation. If it happens that no one else agrees with the speaker, you’ve just succeeded in refocusing the group. If it happens that everyone else does, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to demonstrate that you’re an open-minded team player. And if the group is split, you’ve created an opportunity to lead a discussion on why the group is split and bring everyone back into alignment.
Jory B.