Do people often describe you as a “pushover” or a “doormat”? Do you let people in your personal and professional life walk all over you? It’s time to stop. I know this process isn’t always easy, but the sooner you grow a backbone, the happier you’ll be. It might feel weird at first, but you owe it to yourself. Here’s how to stand up for yourself at work, at home, and everywhere else (and without being rude, to boot).
How to stand up for yourself without being rude
- Practice saying no. Either practice it to yourself in the mirror or start saying no to people you trust, like a parent or significant other. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it, whether it’s going out on Friday night or even having spaghetti for dinner. Seriously. Start small. Just practice “no.”
- Understand that “no” is a complete sentence. In most circumstances, you don’t have to give a reason for saying no. “No” is more than a word — it’s a sentence. The next time someone asks you to do an annoying, time-consuming task that you’d normally say yes to, say no instead — and then say you’ve gotta go, and leave. You don’t have to explain yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree. If someone says something that upsets you, don’t feel that you have to laugh and nod your head. You’re allowed to disagree. You don’t have to fight about it — just say, “I disagree,” and change the subject. If a friend dissolves a friendship because of a disagreement, it’s probably not a strong friendship worth having.
- Give yourself a pep talk. Yup, just like little league, go ahead and psych yourself up before you play ball. OK, that’s a really tired and corny metaphor, but you get the point. Tell yourself that you’re awesome and of value and you don’t deserve to be walked all over, no matter what.
- Remind yourself that you deserve to be treated well. No matter what mistakes you may have made in the past, you’re still worthy of a happy future. You’re a human being and you make mistakes — we all do. Use today to go forward and make the life you want, because you’re worthy of that. Remind yourself what’s great about you (even if you don’t truly believe it at first) and that you deserve good things. Treat yo self!
- Own rejection. Sometimes you’re hesitant to grow a backbone because you’re worried about being shut down or rejected. Start owning it. You can’t take it personally, because it happens to everyone. Use it as motivation to improve and try other things.
- Start to speak up for yourself. For example, if you’re at a restaurant and you get a salad with walnuts on it but you asked them to hold the walnuts, don’t eat it. Kindly request what you originally ordered. Don’t always accept people’s mistakes at your personal expense.
- Ask yourself, “What would my idol do?” Typically, we look up to those who are strong and confident. So if you find yourself unable to be those things, channel your idol. Ask yourself what they would do and how they would handle the situation, and go from there. Eventually, you’ll stop wondering what confident women do differently because you’ll be one of them!
- Stop trying to please everyone all the time. It’s never going to happen. Someone is always going to be unhappy. Don’t let that person be you. Do your thing, and stop caring if someone doesn’t like it. It’s not your problem.
- Disengage. Not everything is worth fighting over. If you’re done with a scenario, walk away. Don’t give the other person the satisfaction of a silly argument. Don’t give them anything. Not worth your time.
- Ignore guilt trips. People can manipulate others through guilt. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, and it’s BS. If your friend calls you and asks you to watch her kids in an hour but you already have plans, you can’t listen to her as she goes on about how much the kids love you and she never gets out anymore. Instead of giving in, say, “I’m sorry I can’t help this time,” and stick to that. If she’s mad about it? Too bad for her.
How to stand up for yourself at work
Just because you work with these people for eight hours a day doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily the people you’d choose to be friends with, if you had the option. Standing up for yourself at work is difficult, but it’s the only way for others to realize that you’re a young professional and deserve some respect.
When you were younger, you were always celebrated for being different and thinking outside the box, but today it seems as if all of your ideas are shut down seconds after you suggest them. You feel bullied, which is a feeling you thought you had escaped once you reached adulthood. Not only can this lead to an awkward work environment, but it’ll lead to a pretty bruised ego.
Here are some tips on how to handle the bullying and stand up for yourself at work without jeopardizing your job — since, let’s face it, you need the paycheck.
- Analyze your method of communication. Perhaps you’re coming off as a little too defensive to begin with, which can happen naturally if you’re expecting negativity. Are you delivering your message with a mean tone? Or maybe you’re just not being too clear in the first place. It might feel goofy, but try smiling before you talk, and make sure you don’t display any kind of uneasiness when expressing your thoughts and opinions.
- Dress the part. It’s true that you should dress for the job you want. Even if you’re at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, make sure to look like a CEO when you walk through the doors at 8 AM. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it’s a subtle way to express to others that you’re serious about the job.
- Be honest with your feelings. This is vital when you’re trying to stand up for yourself. If you feel like someone is talking down to you, kindly tell them that their unnecessary commentary came off as being hurtful. By addressing it immediately, you won’t allow these hurt feelings to bottle up. Something simple like, “Hey Coworker X, that comment kind of hurt my feelings a little bit. It’s okay if you don’t like my idea, but that read more as a personal attack” should firmly let them know that you won’t stand for cattiness. Hopefully, it was just a miscommunication.
- Don’t egg them on. Just like childhood bullies, adult bullies are taunting you because they’re looking for a reaction. They pretty much feed on the chance to completely break your spirit. Adding fuel to the fire means that they’ve won the debate, so your goal should be to shut it down before it escalates into a full-on war. The last thing you want is to be gossiped about throughout the building because you lost your cool.
- Do the research. Whether it be work-related or something you say around the water cooler, make sure you’re well-informed regarding the information you’re spouting out. If you’re about to do a presentation at a meeting, be prepared with plenty of examples about why your method is the right one. If you’re discussing last night’s episode of “The Last of Us,” make sure you’ve actually watched the episode first. Just make sure you’re credible. If you’re known for speaking without thinking, or without doing the research, people will eventually tune out.
- Listen. You want people to listen to you, and they probably will if you give them the same respect. Even if you don’t agree with what they say, give them the proper chance to communicate.
- Stop playing the role of the victim. If you keep viewing yourself as the victim, you’ll continue to act like one. Choose an upcoming Monday to change your whole perspective around, and see how differently your work week plays out. This change of attitude will definitely help boost your confidence.
- Learn the power of “No.” It’s important to be flexible at work and help out your coworkers, but if you feel like everyone is using your kindness as an excuse to dump their menial tasks on you, you’ll never be able to get your own work done. If you don’t have time to take on more tasks, let your coworkers know. Don’t be taken advantage of. Regardless of what you think, being absolutely honest about time management and your workload won’t get you fired.
Figuring out how to stand up for yourself isn’t easy, especially if you’re not a naturally assertive person. However, everyone deserves respect, including you. If it’s not given willingly, demand it. Don’t let anyone walk all over you. You’re better than that. The more you practice the tips above, the less you’ll need to. It’s magic!