If you've ever been in a situation where you had to
stand up for yourself, then you already know it can make for a super stressful situation — and sometimes even one that ends up backfiring. When things don't go according to plan, experts say it may be due to habits that cause others to shut down and stop listening, or mistakes that may make you seem less assertive than you actually are.
Getting your point across and
standing up for yourself can be nerve-wracking, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to become passive, or to sit idly by when something's bugging you. "Standing up for yourself allows you to address the situation in the moment (or shortly after) it happens, and then move on with your life," coach Ashley Bradley tells Bustle. "I believe [that speaking your truth] will build your confidence and allow you to be a happier person." And, to top it off, it can help address potential problems head-on so those around you know you won't settle for less than what you are asking for.
By using a few simple tricks, like the ones listed below, you can easily feel better about speaking up on your behalf. Here are 11 ways experts say you can
improve your assertiveness skills, so you can stand up for yourself in pretty much any situation, and get your point across in a clear and concise way.
Start By Acknowledging The Other Person's Point Of View
While it's obviously great that you have an opinion, and want to stand up for it, remember that whoever you're talking to has one, too. "It's important for self worth to be able to stand up for yourself; that's why you're doing it, right? Remember then that it's equally as important to respect someone else's self worth in the process,"
author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. "Diminishing someone else doesn't elevate you any higher, and it surely won't gain you any respect. If you validate the other person before you state your point of view, you'll help diffuse any potential arguments or hurt feelings before they form."
Standing up for yourself can be nerve-wracking, so remember to take a deep, cleansing breath before launching into your point. "This is just plain science," Myra says. "Research has shown that breathing deeply will diminish fear, making it easier for you to say what you need to say."
Push Your Shoulders Back
Pay attention to
your body language and push your shoulders back to convey physically that you are ready to assert your point. "Good posture contributes to confidence (and also better breathing), both of which show that you mean business," says Myra. "Posture and your overall body language will speak just as much if not more than your words, leaving it absolutely clear that you deserve respect."
Don't Be Afraid To Say "No"
Nothing garners more respect than
the ability to say "no." So be sure to say the word, loud and clear, when necessary. As Myra says, " Setting boundaries is crucial. Say 'no' when something doesn't feel right to you, even if it'll make another person upset. The more you voice your true feelings, the easier it will be to do it all the time."
Rehearse What You Plan To Say
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to properly gather your thoughts, which is why you shouldn't be afraid to rehearse beforehand, if you can. "You can write it out or practice saying it out loud," therapist Laura Winters, LCSW, owner of
Postpartum Health & Harmony, tells Bustle. By running through your ideas, you'll be boosting your confidence and solidifying key points in your mind, so they'll come out smoothly and succinctly.
When standing up for yourself, always keep it short and sweet. "You don't have to explain yourself, and I'd encourage you actually to avoid doing this," says Winters. "If you find yourself explaining, it can open the door to the other person picking apart your rationale and trying to persuade you." By leading with your point, you are confidently putting forth your perspective in a way that can prevent people from questioning it.
Even though you may secretly be horrified by eye contact, try not to make a habit of glancing away. "As far as body language, it's
important to look the person in the eye and stand tall," says Winters. When you maintain eye contact, it shows the other person that you have conviction behind your point, and that you should be taken seriously.
Even if you feel cornered or attacked, it's important to keep a cool head. "Very often situations that ask us to stand up for ourselves feel like we are being attacked. We often go on the counter attack when we feel this way," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of
The Web radio show, tells Bustle.
"When you feel attacked and feel like you must defend yourself, remind yourself that stating your position is all about you," he says. "It’s not about telling the other person they are 'wrong,' [or] 'bad,' ... Don’t get into their actions, or their business. Standing up for yourself means simply stating what you think, feel, and believe. Nothing more."
Maintain A "Neutral" Body Position
One way to put someone on the defensive, and thus escalate a situation, is to get "defensive" yourself via your body language. So even though you may be tempted to step forward or point your finger at them, do resist.
"Hold your body in a 'neutral position," says Klapow. "Don’t point fingers but do communicate directly. Defending yourself means staying upright in your personal space where you can be strong. The more you remind yourself not to shrink and not to attack, the more your body will be placed optimally."
Speak Assertively With "I" Statements
Placing blame on the other person can cause them to shut down and stop listening. But this can be avoided by using "I" statements, instead of "you" statements when sharing how you feel.
"This type of talk takes ownership and responsibility for your experience, which decreases defensiveness in others,"
psychotherapist Lisa Hutchison LMHC tells Bustle. "Assertiveness increases the likelihood of others hearing your message. If they do not hear you the first time, you have not done anything wrong. Simply repeat your message calmly and assertively again."
Call In Friends For Support
Sometimes it's necessary to call in for backup in the form of friends, family, or coworkers who can support your claims, and give you more confidence. "Recruit your friends, a coach or a therapist to run through your thoughts,"
life transition coach Andrea Travillian tells Bustle. "They are also great to help you with practicing boundaries."
Standing up for yourself may be difficult — and even a little intimidating at times — but with a few tips and tricks, and a support team, it'll be possible to effectively get your point across, and feel all sorts of confident as a result.