I used to be a quiet, more reserved person, only sharing my opinion or pleading my case when asked. Perhaps due to age, a shift in personality, being an artist, or advocating for a special needs child, I have become much more vocal.
Life provides countless opportunities to practice speaking up for myself and others. No matter the cause—disputing unsatisfactory services, navigating misunderstandings with loved ones, confronting co-workers, or defending deserved rights—I am learning how to be both firm and respectful while pursuing my needs.
Here are 12 tips on how to stand your ground firmly and respectfully:
1. Identify the issue.
You cannot plead your case while uncertain of the real issue. So many misunderstandings are fueled by ambiguity and sheer emotion. Don’t base things solely on how you feel, but do your best to seek out the facts.
2. Avoid emails or texts.
We all know emails, or any written form, isn’t the ideal way to communicate something important. Words are almost always misread, if not buried in the inbox and never seen. Writing an email or sending a text might seem convenient at the time, but will likely only scratch the surface of an issue (belittling it) or even make things worse (overdramatizing it). If you don’t address the problem at its core, it will continue to resurface and be that much more time-consuming in the end.
3. Drop the phone.
If distance plays a part then phone calls may be the only option, but very little is often accomplished this way, personally or professionally. With so much communication now automated, you run the risk of waiting for hours on the line and being left to choose from a limited list of options without the chance to lay out your concerns to human ears. Don’t waste your time. Face to face is always more productive.
Don’t base things solely on how you feel, but do your best to seek out the facts.
4. Show up in person.
If you feel invisible, you probably are. Out of sight, often out of mind. You cannot fight for what you want if you aren’t willing to show up. Solid persevering presence speaks volumes to how serious you are about something. However, do the courteous thing and make an appointment first. Inquiring when an appropriate time would be to meet will help you start off on a positive foot whether with a friend, colleague, or business rep. If this attempt proves unproductive, then show up. I cannot tell you how many times I have had major issues rectified by making myself visible. Going that extra mile automatically says “I mean business.”
5. Don’t be afraid to ask who is in charge.
Don’t waste your time and someone else’s if he/she isn’t the one with the authority to handle your case. Keep it simple without involving too many people. If it isn’t clear who that is, ask before presenting the whole case to the first person you encounter. It will save your energy and emotional stamina for when it counts, while also respecting those on the receiving end.
6. Be a good listener.
Many people think that holding your ground has everything to do with what you say … loudly. However, if you aren’t willing to listen to the other side, why should you demand they listen to you? Being a successful and reputable problem solver requires being just as good at listening as it does speaking. If you are unwilling to listen, you will not know where the discrepancies lie, leaving your side of the coin lacking knowledge and meaningful substance.
7. Ask questions.
If you don’t understand where and how things went wrong, simply ask and seek to understand.
8. Stay focused.
If you must bring notes to follow, do so. This will allow you to voice your major concerns without running the risk of distraction or regret.
9. Don’t lose your cool.
You can be firm and confident without raising the volume. This is honoring the other person and yourself. Losing your cool can diminish respect and the right to be heard, so keep your composure. If you yell, people will shut down. No matter how frustrated you are, and as good as it might temporarily feel to say what you really want, it is not going to produce the results you desire. Avoid being offensive and others will refrain from being defensive.
Going that extra mile automatically says “I mean business.”
10. Be realistic and willing to find middle ground.
Stay grounded, choosing your battles wisely and avoiding the temptation to present an itemized list of grudges. The answer may not be so cut and dry. Other perspectives are key to understanding why certain things may have transpired the way they have. There is the possibility that what you are demanding, may be impossible in light of unfortunate circumstances, limited resources, or tied hands. Be willing to adjust your expectations and seek a workable solution for at least the first phase of the problem.
11. Remain pleasant.
Offer authentic rather than fake pleasantries, even if you have to dig deep. People will be much more willing to consider your requests if you present them in a civil, even amiable manner. Maintain the attitude of building bridges rather than burning them, going as far as expressing gratitude for their time and willingness to work towards resolution. Then, seek to end the conversation at a peaceable truce if not on the same team, for you never know when your paths might cross again.
12. Follow up.
Whether it ends positively or negatively, attempt to follow up. If the matter was worked out, make the effort to acknowledge the progress made and show your gratitude. You many even consider giving a peace offering. Such a thoughtful gesture is a bridge re-enforcer. However, if the matter remains unresolved and tensions high, try re-engaging when emotions have had time to level out. Continue to be focused, polite, and honorable, inquiring if anything in their sphere has changed since, and when might a good time be to seek resolution again. Doing this shows you are committed to the cause, if not also the people involved.
If something is important to you or a loved one, then it’s worth the effort to try the tips above. It’s ok to be assertive! In fact, it’s part of living a grit and grace life.
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