Peaceful ways to stand up for yourself

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Standing up for yourself is a negotiation.  The ideal outcome is agreement.  Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Sometimes, in the heat of a busy day, you are faced with the need to push back.  This doesn’t come naturally to those who prefer not to offend others.  It is much easier to acquiesce, to let others guide the agenda, and to avoid creating any conflict.

But it sometimes takes confrontation to keep the peace, especially if someone else’s actions are causing wider problems.  Although it is often good to be slow to confront, it would be foolhardy never to confront.

There follow a few styles of holding others to account which, judiciously applied, can help when there is a need to push back.

QUESTIONING

Questioning has the benefit of not constituting a direct rebuttal of someone else’s beliefs or behaviours.  That’s why it’s part of many legal systems.  Sometimes it is enough of a challenge to ask someone about their actions.  It encourages self-reflection and honest discussion.  It also avoids the presumption of judging them, and allows you to learn.

WRITING

Writing has the advantage of being a considered mode of communication.  Unlike speaking, which has a closer connection to our animal urge to make noises and vent through our mouths, writing involves an act of translation, from mind, through the body, to signs on a piece of paper, or typed symbols on a screen.  When we write, we show that we have taken time to consider what we are saying, and are prepared to commit to something concrete to express a point of view.

USING TIMETABLES

The thing about arguments, is that, like anxiety and anger, they make time feel pressurised and short.  If a situation is tense, then it can be helpful to guide others into a timetabled interaction.  This is as important for the silences and separations, as for the talking and togetherness.  If you can be definite about when you are free to interact, it can help to focus minds, demonstrate seriousness, and respectfully allow reflection time.

Also, at times of challenge, it is only fair to let the other party consult their friends and colleagues, so that they can formulate a considered response of their own.  Try not to force the situation into a confrontation from which there is no escape.  Rather, make your point, and then allow time for consideration before a response.

BUILDING A FOUNDATION OF GOODWILL

This is work that is ideally done a long time before any disagreement.  Try to build up, in the good times, a history of goodwill, a clear understanding that you wish the other person well and are prepared to help.  That way, in more difficult times, they will know and trust that you have their interests at heart.

OFFER ONE MESSAGE AT A TIME

What many people do when standing up for themselves, is leak into a series of ‘and another thing’ statements.  Once they get going, they are like a person with a machine gun, firing anywhere and everywhere.

This kind of scattergun approach is very destructive.  Firstly, it confuses the other person: it is the verbal equivalent of throwing them ten tennis balls at once.  Nobody has that many hands.  Secondly, it confuses the situation, and moves the sense of priority from the initial point you were making, to an unfocused atmosphere of general hostility.

It is better, often, to choose one message, state it clearly, and then give time for consideration and response.

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SUMMARY

We all need to stand up for ourselves sometimes.  This is difficult, if you are a person who likes to avoid conflict.  Five suggestions are:

  1. Use questions to gather information, encourage reflection, and make sure everyone has a clear understanding
  2. Use written communication to demonstrate consideration and commitment
  3. Use timetables to allow a respectful, considered interaction
  4. Ensure that, long before you disagree, you already have built a foundation of goodwill
  5. Keep your message well-focused and clear
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