Your 3-Step Plan to Effectively Speak-Up

Self-Advocacy Tips

Can you picture it?


You’re at a work holiday party, a friend’s get-together or visiting your family.


Inevitably a topic comes up that you don’t want to talk about.


This time, you want to avoid being in the discussion entirely OR, avoid blurting out exactly what’s on your mind in a way that leaves people feeling the way you don’t want to feel yourself!


How do you this?


Your 3-Step Plan to Effectively Speak-Up


There are 3 simple steps but if you really want the benefit of these steps you need to do them – not just read them.


So, set your phone timer for 15 minutes and write out your answers so you can see them.


If you don’t have the time now, book it and then do it!


Let this be the action you take to be a little more clear, empowered and resilient when it comes to speaking-up.


Step 1: Name what you want and be specific.


Ever notice that in your head, what you want as an outcome can feel crystal clear?


Do you also notice that the moment you try to articulate what you want, you hear yourself scrambling for words? You’re trying to be clear yet all the while you notice the person you are speaking with looks confused.


We all need to to take some time out to hear our thoughts out loud and outside of our heads.


The way to do this is to write it down. We also need to be specific.


For example, it’s not that you don’t want to talk to Jim. It’s more about not wanting to discuss detailed Covid travel requirements with him for any amount of time!


The distinction is important. 


Specifically naming what you want makes it easier for people to understand your expectation and meet it.


Step 2: State why you want the outcome you’ve named.


Write out your answer even if it seems obvious.




Because there is a likelihood you will be challenged when you ask for what you want with a variation of the question: “Why should I listen to you?!”


If you are clear about your “why” you will have confidence sharing it.


If not, you are more likely to back down on what you want and need rather than advocate for it.


Being clear about your “why” builds your confidence about what you want and don’t want. 


This confidence builds the resilience and motivation to speak-up about what you want and need. 


And remember, you don’t have to share your “why” with others. This step is to help you understand what’s motivating you to advocate for this specific want or need.


Step 3: Write down what’s in it for them.


Think about this: Most people will change a behaviour you don’t like or listen to you, if they are clear about what’s in it for them.


Look at what you want as an outcome and get clear on what’s in it for the person you’re in conflict with or, who you need to exercise boundaries with.


For example: What’s in it for Jim not to talk about Covid travel requirements? That the both of you don’t get into an argument at the party! Or, instead of arguing, both of you spend it exchanging pizza recipes or sharing your love of the new song by Little Simz!


So, here’s the task: For each outcome you have written down, now write out the pushback you may get from the other party and then write what’s in it for them to meet your need or want.


Congratulations! In 15 minutes you are now more prepared for that work holiday party, a friend’s get together or visiting your family!


Helpful Hint and 2 Optional Steps


Helpful Hint


Your helpful hint is to practice these steps in low-stakes situations. Stating what you want and don’t want can be hard – especially if you’re not used to it.


Follow the steps above and then try to speak-up with someone you know and trust and where the conflict level is relatively low.


Step 4: Role-Play


Practice equals improvement!


Yep, it may feel corny but hearing yourself speak-up in a role-play and noticing how you interact with the trusted friend you’ve chosen to practice with, can be helpful.


It beats trying it in a high-stakes situation for the first time and struggling.


If you don’t want to role-play with someone, use the mirror!


Practice speaking-up and notice your stance, facial expression and body language as well as your words. Adjust yourself to embody the person you want to be when speaking-up.


Step 5: Name the behaviour, words etc. that cross your boundaries.


In our heads, we have a long list of what we will and will not tolerate – our boundaries. But when pushed or triggered, few of us can recall them. We’re in reactive mode. 


Writing out a list of what you will tolerate and what you won’t, in advance, builds self-awareness.This helps you when you’re in a reactive state because you’ve prepared.


You can train your brain to notice your reaction and then shift focus to remembering your boundaries.


From this state, you can take the next best action for you!


This may be speaking-up but you may not even need to! Just being more conscious of your boundaries can be enough to subtly remove yourself from situations before they result in full conflict or, in you feeling compromised.


Remember, removing yourself from situations that have the potential to really harm you is a form of speaking up. You’ve drawn the line on what you will and will not tolerate.


Final notes:


Effectively speaking-up requires trying to do it, making mistakes, learning and trying again.


Don’t fall into trap of trying to be perfect!


Perfection is a straight-jacket for growth and transformation!


So, try AND be gentle with yourself. Learn. Rest. Then try again.


You’ve done the work! You’re more prepared. Now take some time to recover and relax.


Virtual high-five!





Are you one of those people who think: Wouldn’t it be great if I knew exactly what to say, how to react and how to keep myself safe when someone was passive aggressive with me, argued with me or was being disruptive and abusive in meetings? If you are and you would like some help, learn about my coaching package on Self-Advocacy here. After, book a free needs assessment and let’s chat!