Speaking Up for Yourself

Key Facts
  • Learning how to speak up will help you gain confidence.
  • Speaking up allows you to voice your opinion about important issues.
  • Listening to the response is just as important as speaking up.

girl raising handHave you ever wanted to tell someone that you’re worried, sad, or mad, but you felt nervous or didn’t know what to say? Have you ever seen something happen that you disagreed with but didn’t know what to do about it? We all get these feelings at times – even adults!

Why should I care about speaking up for myself?

Learning how to speak up for yourself is an important part of growing up. Your voice and opinions matter! Letting others know your thoughts and feelings will help you feel stronger and more confident.

What does it mean to “speak up”?

Here are some examples:

  • Letting others know when you’re feeling sad, angry, or upset
  • Asking a teacher to explain something in a different way if you’re confused
  • Letting a health care provider or nurse know when you don’t understand what they’re telling you
  • Letting a teacher, parent, or coach know when you think a classmate or friend is being bullied or made fun of
  • Talking to a family member or friend about something they did or said that you disagree with
  • Calling 911 in an emergency, or telling a responsible adult when you think someone is in danger

Why is speaking up difficult sometimes?

Sometimes it may seem easier to keep your feelings inside to avoid becoming embarrassed or having a hard conversation, but it’s just a short-term solution. It can be tricky to know when the best time is to speak up for yourself. For example, should you speak to a teacher privately or raise your hand in front of the classroom? Learning how to speak up can change your life in a very positive way.

How can I learn to speak up for myself?

Steps to speaking up:

  1. First, figure out what the issue is and whether you want to do something about it. Having a clear idea of what you want to say and why is the first step in speaking up. What are you hoping will happen once you speak up?
  2. Think about what you’d like to say.Sometimes it helps to practice what you’re going to say before you say it. This can be as simple as thinking it through or practicing out loud with a friend. Think about how you are going to start the conversation- it’s important to use words that won’t make the other person feel like they’re being attacked. For example, say “I want”,“I need”, “I feel” instead of “You should” or “You did”.
  3. Think about the best time to speak up. Speaking up doesn’t necessarily mean raising your hand to talk in class, and sometimes this isn’t always the best time to speak your mind anyway! Decide whether the conversation is best to have with one person or in front of a group. If you get nervous in front of groups, maybe it’s best to make an appointment with a teacher or guidance counselor, or have a private conversation with a friend or parent.
  4. Listen to the response. We don’t always get our way when we speak up. It may be that the other person doesn’t see eye to eye with you, but it’s still important to listen to their thoughts and let them speak without interrupting. Make eye contact with them and let them know that you’re listening.
  5. Safety first! There may be times when you feel like you want to speak up about something you observe in a public place; however, it may not be safe to do so. For example: If you observe someone being treated unfairly, it is still good to speak up to a safe person, someone who will not harm you such as a police officer, store manager or other trustworthy adult and who can handle the situation and not put you or others in danger.
  6. Most importantly, stay positive! It gets easier to speak up for yourself with practice, and every time you do, you’ll get better at it. If you don’t get the solution that you were hoping for after speaking up, take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking this big step! Then, think about what you said, how you said it, and what you’d want to say differently the next time. Speaking up can be hard to do, but don’t give up! You’ll find that with practice it gets easier. Get tips from friends, siblings, parents, coaches and teachers about how they learned to speak up.