Sometimes You Have to Stand Up For Yourself
I’m from Iowa. And Iowans (or least the stereotypical ones, like myself) are kind, polite, and not known for rocking the boat. (Wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone!) But there are times in life that you have to stand up for yourself.
Now standing up for yourself with a little assertiveness doesn’t make you rude or pushy. In fact, assertiveness is all about asking for what you want in a way that respects others. But it can feel scary when you’re used to going with the flow for the sake of peace.
So how have I grown from a meek 20-something girl into a 30-something woman that speaks her mind respectfully, confidently, and effectively? Gather ‘round the campfire with your corn on the cobs and I’ll share what’s worked for me.
What to Do Before You Stand Up For Yourself
- Try practicing by taking small stands first. It’s going to feel way more challenging if the first time you stand up for yourself is to confront a huge issue that’s been brewing for years. Practice being honest and transparent about little things first. Politely decline something small, or voice your opinion when others are making a decision instead of saying, “I don’t mind either way.” Speaking up about small things can help to build your confidence and perfect your approach.
- Wait for the right time to stand up for yourself. Have you ever rushed into a hard conversation, only to be disappointed by the other person’s response? I know what it’s like when you’re dying to strike up a tough conversation, because you’re so darn fired up about it. But the success of your message will depend on the timing of your delivery. Don’t spring an important conversation on someone when they’re clearly busy, distracted, or in a terrible mood.
- Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Along the lines of the last point, it’s tempting to run into a conversation guns blazing, but it usually ends in your emotions taking over and undermining the validity of your words. Whenever possible, think through the conversation ahead of time. Plan how you’ll deliver your words, and consider what objections they might present and how you’ll respond. Then you can be sure that all of your most important points are covered.
What to Do When You Stand Up For Yourself
- Consider the other person’s perspective. There are two sides to every story and in most cases, the other person isn’t deliberately trying to make your life miserable. Consider how they might view the situation and receive your words, and tweak your delivery appropriately. If you don’t address, or at least consider, their wants, needs, and feelings, you’ll have trouble truly connecting with that person and reaching a mutually beneficial resolution.
- Wait them out. Some people are naturally going to try to mow you over when you stand up for yourself. They may rephrase the same idea 100 different ways, explain why you’re wrong or what you should do differently, or even become aggressive or loud. Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, or as if you have to respond just as immediately and aggressively as them. I’ve waited out several people as they ranted for 20 minutes until their emotions came down a level, at which point it was easier for me to respond thoughtfully, but assertively.
- Avoid attacking them, or doing anything the other person could perceive as an attack. Don’t place any labels or assumptions on the other person. This will immediately throw them into attack mode, and make them less likely to hear what you have to say. Be sure to watch your tone, too! Even the sweetest words can offend someone if said in an accusatory or combative voice. I love Psychology Today’s suggestion, “Think of how you can, non-attackingly, best clarify your perspective to them—that is, in a way that’s neither self-righteous (i.e., expounding on the superiority of your position) nor overly defensive (i.e., strenuously seeking to discredit or reject their unfavorable impression of you).”
- Get specific. Don’t list all of the ways the other person has messed up and then wait for their reply. What are you trying to get out of this conversation? What’s the end goal? Be sure to say it. So after you tell your spouse how overwhelmed you feel with childcare and housework, close it out with a specific request. “Could you wash dinner dishes while I put the kids to bed? That would help to lighten my load.” Without a specific request, the other person may feel at a loss for what you actually want from the conversation, besides the opportunity to attack them.
- Don’t blurt out excuses. First and foremost, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. But secondly, the other person can resolve excuses for you. So if you decline signing up for your kid’s 375th school event because you “have to work,” the other person may helpfully suggest using your lunch break or taking a partial vacation day. If you decline something because you “can’t afford it,” they may offer to help pick up the tab. The Bible had it right when it said, “Let your no be no” (Matthew 5:37). No further explanation required.
- Remember that you are the only person that can invalidate yourself. Your emotions, thoughts, and ideas are valid, even if the other person disagrees loudly and aggressively. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Read over 200 more empowering quotes for confidence here!)
Wrap It Up
With a little planning before you stand up for yourself, and careful consideration as you stand up for yourself, you can make sure your words are confident, respectful, and heard. Now go get ‘em, you sweet people!
P.S. Want to start every morning feeling confident and positive? Be sure to nab our free workbook of 70 daily positive affirmations here!
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