Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Learn to Speak up Everyday because Someday You will Have Something to Say that Everyone Should Hear.
Whether it’s at school, college, in the workplace, in politics, in leadership…(I could go on) the people who seem to get attention and be heard are loud (not only in volume), aggressive, and can be quite domineering. The people with this “strong” voice know how to get people to do what they want. There’s a thin line between confident and bullying. Sometimes, it seems being aggressive is the best choice. You want to get ahead and to get your way so why not bully your way to the top? Speak above everyone and make sure no one can argue with you or challenge you. If by some fluke or privilege you find yourself at the front of the line, you can bet it will be with a sense of dis-ease and discomfort that makes you paranoid that everyone is out to get you. You can’t relax when you’re there because you’ll feel an overwhelming need to defend the territory you gained through aggression.
Then there’s the apologetic, placid, and passive voice. These people eventually get on others’ nerves because they also appear indecisive and unable to function independently. Bullies love these voices because they are easy to control and manipulate. This voice is also easy to ignore and subdue. Maybe you think being the “peacemaker” by stifling your thoughts and feelings will ensure you have no confrontations and trouble. Except, it gives other people peace but you become anxious, miserable, and hate yourself because you are selling yourself short. Neither aggression nor passivity will get you anywhere worthwhile.
Have you heard the proverb about the quiet still voice that breaks through the clamour and ruckus to offer wisdom and guidance? Most forms of religion and spiritualism attribute this voice to some greater power. For some it is the conscience warning against misdeeds; for others it’s the voice that gives hope and faith when all seems lost. To summarise; quiet assertive voices that break through commotion and disturbance are valued voices – emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people, especially women because we grow up in homes and communities where we are socialized as women to be passive. We are told that a woman should be soft, gentle, and accommodating. We are instructed to curtsy, tuck in our ample bosoms so they are not too provocative; and lower our eyes so we are not too bold. When we dare to articulate our thoughts and stand up for our beliefs we are labelled aggressive even if what we are saying or doing is not aggressive at all. It is just deviant from social pressures to be submissive, which has become a religious term used to “put women in their place.”
But this is what I am telling you, manners do not translate to passivity. Manners are a show of respect and that respect for others should not be more important than respecting yourself. And submission has several meanings in the dictionary, one of which is to surrender oneself to a superior authority and the other is to proffer, present, or propose information for consideration or judgement. So, if you are committed to being submissive it does not mean you do not speak up, it means you proffer, present, propose, introduce, suggest…etc It means you are part of the function of decision-making and creativity in whatever space you inhabit.
I submit here, ways in which you can be assertive and speak up to be heard. People won’t like it and will disapprove especially if you have always been passive. It messes with their control over you so you will get a lot of negative feedback However, KEEP PRACTISING ASSERTIVENESS!
1. Always speak firmly but respectfully. Use words such as “I strongly believe…” “I am certain…” “I know…” “I will” “I am…” Leave the other person with no doubt that you know what you are talking about. Because you do and just because they would rather you don’t, doesn’t mean you won’t.
2. Start with small exercises like choosing where to go for dinner instead of leaving it up to everyone else. Choose to offer solutions and options rather than just being compliant.
3. As you become more assertive, kick it up a notch with more important stuff by practising what you will say. Like, “I am not comfortable doing what you want me to do so I will not do it.
” Or, “Kindly stop shouting at me and speak to me respectfully so that we can resolve this issue.” Maybe, “I am not doing your assignment because my plate is already full but if you need help I can squeeze you in on Friday after school.” Practice in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend who will be honest and encouraging in giving you feedback.
4. Remember to always choose your battles. Don’t try being assertive with a group of drunk men who will likely try to teach you a lesson on how to be a woman by assaulting you. In such situations, kick off your heels and run for your life!
5. Forgive yourself when you fail. Yes, there will be times when you should be assertive instead you lose your temper and go from zero to 100% lethal in under 60 seconds. It’s alright. If and when you need to apologize to the poor woman you chewed out, be assertive by apologizing sincerely and respectfully. Own your words and your actions.
6. Finally, celebrate your victories. You are becoming a girl/woman who speaks openly, authentically, and respectfully to others and does not hide her talents under a bushel for fear it’s not being feminine enough or it’ll make people jealous or hateful towards you.