Being Assertive But Not Pushy When Writing Letters

Michele Warg
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Writing letters in a professional setting is an art. Whether you're writing to customers, employees or higher-ups, you need to assert yourself and get your point across without being pushy. Follow these tips for writing letters that strike the perfect balance between assertiveness and good manners.

Begin Politely

When it comes to writing letters, starting off right is essential if you don't want to come across as rude. For example, write "Good Morning Ms. Jackson" or "Dear James" at the top of the letter. Even if you are writing an informal email, a polite introduction is always a good idea. Avoid using generic greetings that don't contain the recipient's name.

Don't Be Too Brief

It's a good idea to keep your message short when writing letters, but don't make the letter too brief. You must write enough content to ensure the context is sharp and direct yet has a polite tone to help soften the blow. For example, "We denied your request" might sound abrupt and rude. The following example is assertive yet polite: "Unfortunately, we weren't able to approve your request for a few reasons." Giving additional information or reasons for your answer or request can make the recipient more willing to understand and accept your message.

Mind Your Manners, But Don't Overdo It

Proper communication when writing letters means saying "please" when you're requesting an action from the recipient and ending the message by thanking readers for their attention, cooperation or help. However, try not to repeat "please" more than once per request. For example, if you're asking a client to follow a series of steps, use "please" only once when introducing the steps, and avoid it when creating the instructions that follow.

Cushion Deadlines, If Needed

To avoid seeming too blunt when giving a deadline, cushion this information by adding a sentence or phrase before or after it to make it seem less intimidating. For instance, instead of "Send me the final project by Wednesday," you could write the following: "I love the changes you've made to the project. If you get the final version to me by Wednesday, we can move ahead with the client."

Incorporate Your Feelings

If you have to deny a request or spur action, share some of your feelings to avoid seeming pushy. Phrases such as "I'm sorry we can't agree to your request" or "I wish I could be of more assistance" can help unite you with the recipient.

Take Blame Off the Recipient

No matter whose fault it is, always avoid reader-blaming language when writing letters. Writing things such as "you forgot," "you shouldn't have" or "you still haven't" come across as rude and unprofessional. Instead, let the readers draw their own conclusions about their mistakes with wording such as, "If I received your request before the deadline, I would have gladly accommodated it."

Being assertive is essential if you want to be a strong business professional and get things done, but being pushy only alienates you from your clients, colleagues and bosses. Writing letters with these simple tips can help you convey your message with manners and professionalism.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Keith Enste thanks for your comment. It's a tough situation for companies as well as job seekers. Companies do not want the hassle of a lawsuit so they just don't respond and I think that's a terrible way to treat a job candidate. I agree that, if they act like this in the interview process, what would it really be like to work for the company? Sounds like you did everything but sky write! Being assertive is sending them a thank you note and indicate that you will call them in a week. Being assertive is when you call and try to get an answer on when the hiring decision will be made. Being a pest is when you call, write, email and so on and you do it every day. Personally, if the hiring manager tells me that they are going to make a decision on this date, I will call him on that date to find out. If he waffles - then I move on. And don't forget to go with your guy @Keith. If it doesn't feel right, then it's time to move on.

  • Keith Enste
    Keith Enste

    What recommendations do you have for those situations when you never get that "Yes or No as relating to your candidacy? My last several interviews never resulted in a definitive "Yes" or "No" as related to my applications. However, I do get it that many prospective employers are terrified of litigation. My sense is that it is most: if not all such employers are terrified that if they get back to you with "bad news" the old "Thanks but no thanks" reply that you'll initiate legal proceedings. I tried to follow-up numerous times with those individuals with whom I met: but all to no avail. My numerous voice-mails, e-mails: even snail-mail were all ignored. I finally "threw in the towel” and gave up. It also made me think if they treat prospective employees so badly; once you're hired they are really going to treat you poorly. I'd also like to ask how does one keep "being assertive" from becoming "being a pest"?

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