This world isn’t always the most forgiving place, and we can’t always count on other people to be there for us every time we need them. Nearly everyone is feeling spread thin these days, and even our greatest advocates will sometimes find they’ve piled their plates too high. We need to be able to speak up for ourselves when no one else is there to do it.
Some of us might not feel comfortable making a stand, or maybe we never learned how to do it effectively. Whatever the cause, the only solution is to pick up those skills and learn how to use them. The sooner, the better.
When we’re accustomed to holding back, we might find ourselves remaining silent even when we’re silently screaming at ourselves to say something. Even if we want to stand up for ourselves, we may still feel frozen when the time comes to act.
This response generally stems from a fear of conflict, and our go-to impulse becomes avoidance in an attempt to sidestep the potential discomfort. The problem, however, is that the more confrontation we avoid, the more likely we are to escape the next uncomfortable situation. We fall out of practice, which makes us even less apt to jump in at any given time, and the hole gets a little deeper yet. The more we practice standing up for ourselves, the easier it gets.
What’s most important is that we start working on this skill now, so it can become a regular fixture in the toolbox. If necessary, start by role-playing with a trusted friend. The act might feel silly and awkward, but it can be invaluable in teaching us strategies for moving forward and gaining confidence in our interactions. Getting past the discomfort is the first step.
Choosing Your Battles
Not every potential conflict is the right opportunity to speak up. There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s important to learn when to show restraint as well. Do you have something prepared to say? How high are emotions at the moment? Are you ready with options to keep your cool if things don’t go as planned? Does the person you need to confront look receptive, or might you be better off waiting for a better opportunity?
Problems arise when people enter tense or difficult situations without any plans. If you haven’t covered all your bases and have no idea how you’re going to approach an issue, then the timing might not be the right for you to tackle it. Be ready. Be practiced.
Confronting someone on an impulse is a great way to start an argument you may not be able to finish. Not everyone is naturally assertive, and some of us have been programmed to back down no matter how high the stakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to stand up for ourselves effectively and appropriately. We might need to take baby steps, and even practice interacting to hone the ability, but we can gain the skills we need to be our own biggest advocates.