Real talk: Sometimes you aren’t getting what you want or need from a situation. People can cross a line and disrespect, invalidate, disregard, or underpay you. When that happens, you got to stand up for yourself! For many of us, we don’t expect those in our personal or professional lives to do things to us that make us feel uncomfortable, manipulated, or worse– threatened. The reality of life is that sometimes this is more common than we’d like to think. Rather than seeing this as a catastrophe, it is important to remain calm and level headed so that you can find a solution that suits all parties involved.
I’m self employed and I work with different brands and organizations on the regular. Although all my working relationships start out as positive and reciprocal, sometimes boundaries can be crossed and contracts are breached. It is frustrating yet I find empowerment through claiming my agency and advocating for my needs.
While my tips are mainly based off my experience, these ‘laws’ are universal and will serve you well in any instance.
Law #1: Believe in What You Are Asking For
The most important part about self-advocacy is your belief in you.
Think about it: would you support a cause if the founders seemed iffy about it? Imagine them pitching to you about why you should give your time, money, and energy while also not fully believing in it themselves. Chances are, you would leave them high and dry.
When you are in a position of needing to advocate for yourself, it can take a hit to your self esteem. Affirming and validating yourself is a sure way to reclaim your power. Confidence is key and comes from a place where you stand firm in what you need.
After all, if you don’t believe in what you want, who else will?
Law #2: Step out of the Victim Mindset
Realizing that you are in a space where you have to stand up for your needs can be difficult. I know I can exhaust myself trying to figure out what I did to deserve this treatment. It’s easy to take this personally and accept the blame for everything that’s happened.
While it may feel like the person you’re dealing with is intent on hurting you, that is not the case. It’s important to realize that people behave how they do and nothing you say or do influences their actions.
Everything that is happening to you is a reflection of who they are. This is in no way a representation of your character.
Rather than falling into a pit of despair, you must remember that you are the heroine or hero of your own story. This is simply a blip in your life and you will overcome this.
Law #3: Decide Exactly What You Want — And Go For It
When it comes to advocating for yourself, it helps to know exactly what you want. To find this out, ask yourself: what do I really need from this situation? What do I feel needs to be changed?
You might feel like you have to ask for less than you want in order to increase your chances of getting it. I want to tell you that is a big fat NO. You are already showing immense courage in speaking up for yourself so why not give it 100% and get exactly what you are looking for?
Staying small hurts you because you’re anticipating rejection so you compromise your needs and the other person isn’t even aware of it! In the end, playing it safe means you’re only cheating yourself.
It’s best to stand firm in what you want and have the bravery to go for it.
Law #4: Draw Up a Plan of Action
If you are asking someone for something and you expect them to help you get exactly what you want, you will be met with disappointment. That’s why the next step to advocating for yourself means having a strategy for getting what you want.
I am not talking manipulation, I mean laying out a plan of action that will help you achieve the goal you’re making a case for.
This can be especially helpful if you are feeling powerless in the situation and unsure if you are deserving of what you want. Having a clear blueprint of your needs will help you affirm yourself.
You will find that people are more inclined to help you fulfill your needs if you tell them how to clearly do so.
Law #5: Seek out Support
Self-advocacy can feel very isolating and sometimes even shameful. After all, it’s you fighting for needs you believe you deserve and are not being granted. It can be difficult to find solutions to problems because we become emotionally involved in them. I have found that in these instances, seeking a friend or colleague’s perspective helps me process and problem solve.
Not only can you view your situation from a different perspective, but truly supportive friends will validate what you are feeling. By seeking community, you can have your experience affirmed and be carried through it.
Law #6: Communicate with Clarity
If your situation is a door, communication is key. Clear and concise communication will actually turn the lock and help you get to the other side.
It can be difficult to step out of your emotional state and objectively make your case. After all, it is personal and can arouse a lot of passion, anger, or shame. However it’s important to understand that reacting emotionally pushes others away and doesn’t help your cause.
I have found that the most effective conversations I have had all follow a guideline of sorts. I state the facts of the situation without my perspective involved. Next, I present how the instance is affecting me without pushing blame onto the other person — even when I feel like it’s very much their fault. Following that, I propose solutions that will help me achieve my goal and get the other party their desired result.
Law #7: Be Firm and Persistent
Even if you do all that, things may not work out in your favor. Rather than being discouraged, you must be persistent.
There’s a reason people often state, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” because its true. If you haven’t heard this, it basically means that the loudest or most apparent problems get the most attention.
It may seem redundant, yet tenacity will go a long way for you. Continue to reach out, speak up, and make a case for what you deserve. If you are told a “no”, it’s not the worst thing in the world. That either means you try again later or find another avenue to get what you want.
Self-advocacy can be a long, scary, and sometimes frustrating road. If you are a people-pleaser who is afraid to rock the boat, you might find yourself compromising on your values in order to keep others happy.
However, with a few key laws in place you can achieve any goal you desire accomplishing. It is important to believe in what you want, step out of the victim mindset and go for what you want. To help move things along, you can create draw up a plan of action, seek a support system, and communicate your needs clearly. The one thing that really keeps the whole thing moving? Your courage to be firm and persistent in making your case.
If you take anything from this piece, I want you to remember that there is a great honor in advocating for what you believe you deserve: it is the highest form of self respect one can have.
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A version of this article first appeared in Matai Agency, a digital publication for women’s empowerment.