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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois chapter.

For what reasons may we be afraid to speak up? The ways we choose to communicate in our day-to-day lives become a habit, just like any behavior. If we’ve experienced negative outcomes from speaking up in the past, we’re less likely to feel comfortable doing so in the future. If we’re ridiculed for speaking up to our parents as a kid, we are likely to refrain from ever speaking up again in fear of being yelled at or punished. Fortunately, through practice and some self-encouragement, you can learn how to become more assertive in communicating your thoughts and opinions.

When should you speak up?

It’s important to know when you should be voicing your feelings rather than letting them slide. First, you should always speak up if someone is criticizing you or making a joke at your expense to the point where you’re uncomfortable. If someone is repeatedly being unkind to you, speaking up may be the most efficient way to put an end to it. Another instance when you should speak up is when someone is being unfair to you. Let’s say your roommate isn’t doing their share of chores, or a friend is refusing to pay you back. You may have to address your feelings in order to make the situation fair.

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Kristen Bryant / Her Campus

Be confident

Confidence is what will help you communicate your thoughts more effectively and clearly. This includes making good eye contact, having straight posture, and using a clear voice. Even though many of us tend to struggle with self-confidence, there are ways you can help with this. A good way to prepare yourself for a confrontation is to practice in low-risk environments. This means pretending you’re approaching the situation in a place that’s less tense. Write down what you want to say, practice in a mirror, or even practice with a friend. This is a great way to organize your thoughts and feel more prepared.  

accept possible consequences

Be aware there’s risk involved in any confrontation. It may put those around you in an uncomfortable position. Some may judge you for choosing to speak up. You may fear losing a friend or family member. You may fear losing respect from a boss or professor. Just remember that you need to let go of these potential outcomes and don’t let them hold you back. One thing you can do is focus on communicating your feelings respectfully. Just because you need to confront someone doesn’t mean it has to create tension. Focus on getting your point across by using “I” statements and considering the feelings of others. Having the right attitude helps you gain respect!

Keep these ideas in mind next time you need to stand your ground. Remember that you shouldn’t feel bad letting your voice be heard!

Lauren Cravens

Illinois '25