Speak Up: How to Stand Up for Yourself

Picture this: You’re feeling wronged. You have hurt feelings. This is more than just a stubbed toe – this is something that has been bothering you for more than a few hours. You know that you have to say something because you can’t just “get over it” – so why can’t you work up the courage to do it?

Speaking up is a scary task – we don’t like rejection! If we speak up, chances are we have to voice our pain and social issues with another person. Those feelings might not be received well and lead to that person rejecting you or your opinion.

It doesn’t have to be like that all the time though! You can learn to start speaking up for yourself and for others – sometimes it’s a bit easier to speak up for others, but often it’s better to start speaking up for yourself first. The reason? You aren’t this other person; you’re you – even if you know they are upset by what happened, they might not want you to stand up for them, so it creates a very messy situation when you speak up for someone else who isn’t interested in your help.

Whew, worried about how complicated this sounds already? Don’t be! You, too, can get away from feeling like a doormat.

First, let’s think about why we should speak up. Some people are assertive communicators and tend to speak up often – if this is you, great! If it’s not you, that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up, it just means you haven’t been. If something is bothering you and continues to bother you – or continues to happen – that’s usually when you should speak up. Is worrying about it wasting a large part of your day? Yes? Then you should speak up.

And keep in mind something my therapist tells me: no one can make us feel anything. We have control over our own emotions.

So how can we start to speak up? Here are three tips to get you on the right path – you’ll still have to find the courage yourself:

Know why

Uncertain what you’re speaking up about? Just really, really angry? Probably not a great time to speak up. Take a few moments to note why you are speaking up – what was the behavior that upset you? What action happened that led to this feeling? If you can’t identify it in a few sentences, take a breath and try to pull your emotions away from the facts.

You are allowed to be upset, angry, hurt – you should be able to talk about what happened aside from “I’m angry” – especially if you want to speak up.

Pull them aside and make time

This one is major and probably the scariest. Once you have your homework done about what you’re going to say – specifically those few sentences – schedule time to talk to the person you’d like to speak up to. Do not just assault them one day by the coffee pot. Shoot them an email, drop them a call, and tell them you’d like to get on their calendar.

It’s so scary because of the lead-up! You have to make the choice to reach out and then do it, and then show up to the meeting. If you’d like to hold yourself accountable, you can set up time and then do the work around prepping for it – identifying what’s bothering you. If that’s too much pressure, be ready before you ask for the meeting because that other person could say, “How about now?”

Also: it’s a good idea to do this privately and not, say, in front of the office coffee station.

Be assertive and clear

When you’re in the moment, be sure to be assertive and clear. A nice tip is to use as few words as possible. You can say: I feel [this way] when you [did this]. Let them respond and know it might not be resolved after this moment.

And good luck. You’re doing a major thing, and you should be proud of it.



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