8 Ways To Speak Up For Yourself — And Improve All Your Relationships

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Young Asian professional woman standing confidently and smiling at the camera

Can you believe that 90% of people have felt afraid to speak their minds at least once within the last 18 months?

Speaking up in awkward situations or when you have something important to say can be one of the toughest things you can do, but your life and your relationships will always be better for it. You likely worry about uncomfortable hiccups during tough conversations. Fortunately, there is a way to minimize the risk of the unexpected.

The key is to be present whenever you're speaking. I know, easier said than done! I promise, the information below will help you make this a reality.

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Eight ways to effectively speak up for yourself & advocate for what you need

1. Always advocate for yourself

It's not uncommon for people, especially women, to be taught to put the needs of their loved ones ahead of their own. While it's wonderful to consider others, you should always be your top priority. If you want to be a strong communicator, then you have to figure out what you want and never shy away from your wants and needs.

People who truly care about you will want to know how you're feeling and what they can do to help you thrive. You should reconsider someone's presence in your life if they always shut you down when you try to express yourself.

2. Flex your empathy muscles

One of the lesser-known tips on how to use your voice effectively is to consider where someone else is coming from when they enter a discussion. When you're empathetic, you can better understand why the people in your life say and do certain things. In an ideal world, everyone in your life would also bring empathy to the table as well.

Once you can get into the minds of others, you'll be able to navigate conversations in a way that keeps the mood calm and productive.

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3. Repeat what others say to avoid miscommunications

When it comes to effective communication, listening is just as important as speaking. Paying too much attention to how you speak can lead to harmful miscommunications that prevent your relationships from deepening.

If you're ever unsure of what someone else is trying to say, repeat what they said to you while using your own words. They can either confirm or correct what you said so you're both in agreement. Don't feel shy about asking someone else to do the same for you if they seem confused.

4. Try to avoid using passive language

A common mistake many people make when they're afraid to speak is using passive language. For example, if you'd like your partner to contribute more to household chores, a passive phrase is, "It would be nice if the dishes could get done." Instead, you can use direct language by saying, "I would be so grateful if you could do the dishes tonight."

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5. Pivot when conversations are no longer productive

Do you ever feel like your conversations seem to go off the rails and you're not sure how you got there? If you want this to stop happening, then you should train yourself to recognize the early signs that the conversation will go south if it continues on its current course.

When a loved one brings up something that you don't feel is relevant to the topic, then you can politely point this out to them. You can say something like, "I can see that this is important to you, but I don't think it will help us with what we're trying to accomplish right now. Is it alright if we talk about that issue later?"

6. Be mindful of when certain conversations happen

If there's something important that you'd like to talk about with a loved one, then it's understandable if you feel antsy. As much as it would benefit you in the short term to get that conversation out of the way as soon as possible, you may not get the long-term results that you want.

There are all kinds of factors that can impact a person's mood and how they would react to you and the topic. For example, if you try having a serious conversation right after your partner gets home from a long day of work before eating, then they might be grumpy. Try to time special conversations so the mood is right.

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7. Don't forget about tone and body language

Your words may bear the heaviest meaning, but you shouldn't underestimate the impact of tone and body language either. You can think about this in simple terms by imagining a dog. Even if you're trying to tell a dog how much you love them, they won't receive your kind words well if you're yelling and pointing at them in an aggressive way.

With this in mind, you should check in with yourself to ensure that your body language remains open and calm. If you notice that you're starting to raise your voice, take a deep breath or even excuse yourself for a moment if you need to find your center again.

8. Keep your intentions in mind while discussing

The final thing to consider during your conversations is your overarching relationship goals. If you want your relationships to move forward, then meditating on those intentions will help you navigate your discussions with more grace.

Practice trusting your intuition more and don't hesitate to redirect conversations so they stay aligned with what you both want to achieve.

You can use your voice to improve your relationships 

Learning how to use your voice can seem scary at first if being passive has been your reality for many years. 

Once you start taking these steps to communicate more effectively, you'll be amazed by how much better your relationships get.

The people who care about you and respect you want to know what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. At work, co-workers and colleagues will be better able to collaborate with you when you speak up and use your voice effectively. Family members, friends and even partners will get to know the real you and deepen their personal relationships with you when they know what you think, feel and need!

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Jennifer S. Wilkov is the founder of Speak Up Women, a community dedicated to the importance of women’s self-expression and empowerment. She presents the Speak Up Women Virtual Conference, taking place on April 1, 2023. Tickets are currently still available.