Speaking up for Yourself

It’s important to speak up for yourself, or learn how to, because one major consequence of not doing that would be that you’re forced to stuff your anger and frustration. When that happens, the anger is forced out in all sorts of mutated ways: irritability, anger at innocent bystanders, and anger at yourself.

Speaking up for yourself also negates much of the assumptions or things we think will happen if we say what’s on our mind. A lot of the times our assumptions or fantasies aren’t really valid once we actually check it out with the person that you need to communicate with.

Often, we spin so much negativity and irrational thinking, that we talk ourselves out of standing up for ourselves or confronting anything. We have to learn how to teach ourselves how to check things out with reality, not just what’s stirring in our heads. Realities vary from person to person.

Ask yourself: what is the worst thing would happen if I stick up for myself and say something? Will I piss this person off? Will worse things happen to me? Will the person never speak to me again? Play some of these questions out in your head when you are considering making a confrontation or speaking up for yourself. See if they are actually true once you get them out there on the table.

If you’re confronting the person and they do get angry that you’re saying something to them, or they get defensive, that’s really about them, and not you. You don’t have to own or take responsibility for them – you only have to for yourself. You can still listen to what they’re saying without absorbing their anger or defensiveness, or taking it on yourself.

If you’re the kind of person that is afraid of conflict, your lesson is to learn how to challenge yourself to push past it and speak up for yourself. Therapy or counseling also helps with this, as you could uncover the driving factors involved in not being able to speak up for yourself or that make you avoid conflict.

Examples of when speaking up for yourself might be needed:

  • When someone says something offensive or hurtful to you, that you can’t let go
  • When something is affecting you or your life that needs to change
  • When you find yourself ruminating – or thinking constantly – about something that someone has said or done to you
  • When someone else’s behavior is getting in the way of your happiness or emotional well-being
  • When you’re trying to right a wrong
  • ​When you’re sticking up for someone else who’s been wronged, like your spouse or family member
  • If you have been wronged by a restaurant, retail store or some other customer service provider

Helpful hints when speaking up for yourself:

  • Speak in “I” statements, and don’t be rude, critical or attacking of others
  • Get to the point: be specific, clear, and direct; don’t beat around the bush or make others read your mind
  • Be confident with your words and body language: really get on board with what you’re saying before you say it
  • Target their problematic behavior or words directly when you say what the matter is
  • Don’t take responsibility for their defensiveness, or for them getting angry with you for saying what’s on your mind: remember – that’s about them, and not you
  • Be aware of your tone when you say what’s on your mind – sometimes the same words said with two different tones have completely different effects, and can get you two different outcomes
  • Say what you want or need from the person directly
  • Time it well: think out what would be the best time to approach this person, where you could get through to them most effectively

Speaking up for yourself doesn’t have to be a big deal. It may take a bit of courage, well-placed words and timing, but learning these things becomes an art. People will respect you for saying what’s on your mind, and you’ll respect yourself, too. If you don’t learn how to stand up and speak out for yourself, you’ll be missing opportunities to support yourself and get what you want.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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