One of the most salient truths about relationships is this: You teach people how to treat you. This applies to dating, work, friendships, and every other kind of relationship. All of your communication, verbal and nonverbal, accrues to show another person how you expect to be treated.
That’s why it’s crucial for you to stand up for yourself and refuse to be treated unfairly. To demonstrate respect for yourself and show others that you expect the same, start with these strategies:
1. Rewrite your script. Past experiences dating back to childhood may have left you with the belief that your opinions don’t matter. Do whatever you need to change erroneous or outdated messages about yourself.
2. Summon your inner strength. Self-respect and security come from deep within you.
3. Know precisely what you want. Become perfectly clear in your own mind what you want from any situation. If you are unclear, you’re likely to come across as wishy-washy.
4. Speak, don’t smolder. If you feel that someone is trying to take advantage of you or disregard your wishes, you might be tempted to silently fume and seethe. Remaining silent may avoid conflict but won’t resolve anything—or show respect for yourself.
5. Let body language work for you, not against you. The way you carry yourself—your posture, eye contact, tone of voice—all convey what you believe about yourself.
6. Don’t allow others to control your emotions. Powerful personalities in your life may try to make you feel bad, guilty, or inferior. But you and you alone are in charge of your feelings and convictions.
7. Be your own advocate. Those closest to you will have your back, but you are your number-one supporter and promoter.
8. Safeguard your self-worth. Your value as an individual is not determined by anything someone else does to you or says about you.
9. Call it like you see it. If you feel that you’re being disrespected or disregarded, say exactly what you believe is happening. This will demonstrate that you have backbone and give the other person a chance to explain.
10. Don’t apologize for your thoughts or feelings. It’s always helpful to say you’re sorry if you’ve done something wrong, but feeling a certain way isn’t wrong and doesn’t warrant an apology.
11. Offer a firm but polite assertion or rebuttal. You can say, “I need to tell you I take offense at your comment.” Or, “I believe what you did is unfair—let me tell you why.”
12. View the word “no” as a viable (and sometimes necessary) option. Often, the most effective way to stand up for yourself is to lay down a firm boundary by saying, “No.”
13. Focus on your own response. You can’t control another person’s attitudes or actions, but you can control your reactions. Carefully consider how you want to respond to unfair situations.
14. Practice quiet confidence. Although raising your voice may sometimes be appropriate, standing up for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean being loud and bombastic. Often, a subdued but resolute response sends the most persuasive message.
15. Prepare for pushback. When you change the dance between yourself and another person, you’ll probably encounter resistance. Once you stand up for yourself, refuse to step back.