Colleagues arguing in office. Problem in team. Business people at meeting.
ATD Blog

How to Stand Up for Yourself

Friday, April 5, 2024

When someone raises their voice when speaking to you or demeans you in front of your peers, it can be difficult to know just how to react. It can be easy to just stay quiet and hope the moment passes as quickly as possible.

Yet most of the time, silence is not the best solution. With the right confidence and skills, we can stick up for ourselves in a healthy, positive way. Here are some tips to speak up when you or someone close to you is being mistreated.

Address Your Thinking

Are there beliefs or attitudes contributing to your lack of confidence? Unless your thinking changes, your behavior is unlikely to shift by much, whether you practice new behaviors or not.

Instead of playing over and over in your head what you wish you would have said, examine why you find yourself in this pattern of behavior.

In Crucial Conversations is a concept called Master My Stories. The premise is this: the stories we tell ourselves shape our interpretation of events and our behavior. Another word for story is belief. A lack of “strength” to speak up for yourself is not merely the result of not knowing what to say. It is likely grounded in beliefs and perspectives that have been formed during your life and run years deep. They are embodied and have been shaped by your experiences.

Perhaps you’ve spoken up in the past only to make matters worse. Maybe those attempts have damaged your relationships or reputation. Perhaps you’ve determined that no one will listen to or care about what you have to say. Whatever it is, somewhere along the way you’ve come to the conclusion, consciously or not, that it’s better to remain silent than to speak up for yourself.


Uncovering the underlying premises does not mean you will be able to immediately shake them off. Changing our perspectives often entails years of work. Awareness is simply the first step.

You Have Power

As you work to uncover your beliefs, I invite you to replace them with this belief: you are a source of power and responsibility in the world.

Why is this important? It is my experience that patterns of self-defeating or destructive behavior have their root in beliefs that either (1) ignore our power of agency or (2) justify efforts to avoid taking responsibility for it.


To some degree, our capacity to change our behaviors and outcomes depends on the belief that we can do so. Consider that as you search yourself for self-limiting beliefs. You must develop the feeling that, somewhere and somehow, you have a perspective worth sharing.

Affirm Your Self-Worth

To affirm your sense of self-worth, just say “no.” “You can’t talk to me like that.” “No.” “You can’t disrespect me.” “I won’t listen to this.” Find an expression that allows you to calmly but surely affirm you will not tolerate being disrespected.

To preserve your sense of self-worth, leave. Excuse yourself. Get to another room, a friend’s house, another colleague’s office. State your affirmation, then say, “Excuse me.” And go.

Please don’t take these suggestions as a copout or a sign of weakness. In the words of Albert Camus, “Saying no does not mean giving up. It also means saying yes, with every gesture.” Say “yes” to yourself.

Finally, these suggestions imply you’re not in danger but have developed a habit of allowing others to disrespect and disregard you. If it’s worse than that—if you are being bullied—I urge you to seek safety and professional help. Otherwise, as you address your thinking, assert your power, and affirm your self-worth, you’ll build more confidence to speak up and stick up for yourself.

About the Author

Ryan Trimble is a lead writer at VitalSmarts. He works alongside the company’s authors and researchers to identify and publicize trends in workplace communication and human behavior.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.