Three Practical Principles for Speaking Up For Yourself

By Kristen Clark

Some people are very opinionated; they seem to know exactly how they feel about everything.  On the opposite side of the spectrum are those who are less dogmatic and have a tendency to defer to the ideas of others.  Unfortunately, the latter behavior is often the result of fear due to a lack of confidence.  Build confidence and live life to the fullest by finding and using your voice.

What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander and still many of us worry that not going along with “the plan” will rustle some feathers. We fear the idea of conflict more than the idea of doing something we don’t agree with or want to do.  Unfortunately, peacemaking often results in compromising on something that is really important to us.  This can lead to unmet expectations and deep resentments.  This has certainly been true for me.

Thankfully, I have discovered three principles that I practice regularly in my effort to speak up for myself.  You also might find these principles helpful:

1.  Identify Your Truth.  In order to fully know your truth about a situation you may need to take a few minutes (maybe hours or days) to assess the situation and ask yourself some questions.  How do you feel about the situation?  Are you comfortable with what’s being expected of you?  Is the situation hurtful to you – mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually?  Do you want to participate?  You may not immediately know how you feel about a particular situation. Take the time needed to fully understand your personal inner truth about what’s happening.

2.  Speak Your Truth in Love and Kindness. Once you have identified what you know to be true for you about the situation, voice your truth. This can be done gently.  Speak your truth without shouting over other voices or stomping your foot to make a point; a soft whisper sometimes does the trick.  Speak your truth without pointing fingers or placing blame.  Speak openly, honestly, and candidly, but speak gently.  Also, avoid the need to explain yourself.  People will not always agree with or understand your position.  Simply state your thoughts and resist the need to overstate them.

3.  Own Your Truth in Action. Actions speak louder than words, which is why it’s important to follow up your opinion with the appropriate action.  This is when you decide whether or not to go along.  Avoid saying one thing and doing another.  Eliminate confusion by taking the actions that align with your opinion.  Don’t compromise on those things that are really important to you.  Save yourself from possible resentments; if you don’t want to participate, then don’t participate.  If you decide you want to, then go for it.

I attend a number of conferences and retreats, and one year I was asked to play a part in a skit for the Saturday evening entertainment.  I love skits and immediately said yes!  Unfortunately, I was not comfortable with the role I was later assigned to play.  While I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, and realizing that acting in a skit is much like pretending, I wasn’t comfortable participating in the behavior written for this particular character.  I quickly became anxious about the skit and wanted desperately to back out of my commitment.

I thought about the situation for a couple of days and came to the conclusion that playing this particular character would be hurtful to me.  The character’s behavior was not anything I wanted to exhibit, participate in, or condone.  So, I called the skit director and in a gentle and loving tone said, “You may not understand this but I am not comfortable with this particular role and so I need to decline from the play.  I am so sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.”

She was disappointed in my response, but she honored my decision and gave the part to someone else.  I didn’t have to make a big deal about it, either.  I simply had to speak my truth in a gentle tone and because I did I was invited to play a different role in that same skit and still contribute in a fun way.  By speaking up for myself I avoided the embarrassment, guilt, and shame that often comes with not sticking to my guns and I had a great time at the retreat with my friends.

Don’t let others make decisions for you by sitting in silence. Make the conscious choice to let go of timidity and take your desired action.  Speak up for yourself.  You’ll feel better about yourself when you do.

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Stop criticizing others to feel better about yourselfWell, I certainly wouldn’t have done it that way.  She should know better.”

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