Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Mental Health

Between B*tch and Biddable: How to Stand Up for Yourself

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

I hate confrontation. Really hate it. I’ve let people walk over me in the past because I hate it so much. I don’t want to cause a problem. I don’t want them to be mad at me. I don’t think my objections are that valid. 


This however, I’ve come to realize, is toxic behaviour. It’s toxic for the other person, and most importantly, it’s toxic for me. Our feelings are just as important, our happiness is just as important, as anybody else’s. We cannot set a precedent in your relationships that will allow people to think that they can get away with anything. 

Therefore, here are 9 tips for you and I to become more assertive and stand up for what we want. 

1. Make sure the issue is real. 

Before entering a conversation with another person, you need to make sure that what you’re feeling is valid. Most of the time, it will be. However, sometimes, it’s a little late at night, you didn’t sleep well the day before, you haven’t eaten all day, you’re on your period, your pen exploded in your back pocket ruining your favourite jeans, you didn’t get the internship you wanted, you got a bad mark at school… I’m not saying it’ll be all of these things at once, but elements such as these will definitely be a factor in how you’re reacting to something. If you realize you’re about to take out your anger on somebody that didn’t really do anything wrong, you should postpone having or forget the discussion altogether. 

It can also be helpful to let the person know that you’re in a bad mood and they will most often be accomodating to that fact, whether it be by giving you some space, or being careful about what they do or say. 

2. Choose a good time. 

Again, this addresses the lead up to the confrontation (wow, I really do avoid confrontation lol), but I do think it is important. You need to choose a time and place where the person you are confronting is going to be most receptive to what you’re saying. Generally a one on one situation is also best, so that there isn’t anyone who can either take sides, or who will have to sit awkwardly in between the two of you whilst you chat. If the other person is stressed or studying or busy, it might not be a great time. If they’re in a bad mood, it’ll be no better than if you are. For a chance at walking away from this discussion without catastrophy, both parties need to be ready to hear what the other has to say without feeling immediately attacked. 

The fool proof way of doing this is by letting the person know that you want to talk, and asking whether this is a good time. 

3. Learn to say No. 

Though this might be hard, “no” is important. It is not rude. It is not stubborn. “No” shows that you are strong! You can definitely explain your position if that makes you more comfortable, but sometimes, the less said the better. Make your position clear so that the other person will fully understand what you are feeling. If you beat around the bush with your emotions, there’s no guarantee that the other person will know what you’re truly saying. This leads to my next point:

4. Never let things go unsaid. 

Someone can’t know what’s going on inside your head. You need to make that clear by explicitely saying it. If you do let things go, you’ll ultimately both end up resenting each other for not being able to express your positions fully. Always in a constructive manner, debate certain points. Bring up certain issues again if they weren’t received properly the first time. 

5. When someone attacks, wait them out. 

Points 5, 6 and 7 deal with people who are automatically set to attack mode. Sometimes, people don’t take criticism well. They get defensive, upset, and turn it on you. They will bring up every time you’ve done them wrong as a counterattack to this one thing you’re mentioning. Sometimes they can be right. Most often, not. However, rising to the bait is not the way to engage with these people. Attacking back with low blows is not how you will get your point accross. It will undermine the legitimacy of your feelings. It will make you seem irrational. So make sure to stay calm and systematically address points that they bring up. 

I’m thinking of this Jordan Petersoninterview where though he is being attacked by Cathy Newman, he stays very calm and collected the entire time. He therefore seems much more legitimate, and correct (This by no means means that I agree with Jordan Peterson!!!). 

6. Do not apologize for how you feel. 

In my experience, it’s super tempting, if a discussion isn’t being received as I’d have liked, to backtrack on what I said, apologize and try and return to the neutral state before the talk. The problem is, it wasn’t a neutral state. You were legitimately upset by something and that person needs to understand that. If it doesn’t work this time, you can always try again. Ultimately however, you will need to, at one point, assert your position without being bullied back into submission. Or else you’ll never be able to resolve the issue!

7. Practice what you say ahead of time.

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and to say things you don’t mean. Whether that be because you’re angry, flustered or nervous, you won’t be getting your point across properly if you haven’t thought about exactly what it is you are feeling, and how you are going to express it. So write it down. Not only will this help relieve some of the feelings you’re feeling, perhaps make you more level headed, but it will help you start the discussion in a clear and true way. 


8. Use positive sentences not negative ones. 

This applies to smaller issues, but when asking someone not to do something that bothers you, use a positive sentence structure. That is, don’t say, “Can you not leave the toilet seat up?”. Say instead, “Can you put the toilet seat down?”. I think this tricks people into receiving what you’re saying as a suggestion rather than attack, although usually it is received in the same way. (If they refuse to comply, then a bigger discussion is required).

9. Practice Makes Perfect

Start standing up for yourself in small situations, straight away (If it’s a bigger issue, I do still think that entering a discussion prepared is best).  Start learning what it’s like to not let small things go, just because you wan’t to avoid confrontation. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. That’s 66 days for you to say “I disagree with that” or “I don’t think so…” or “please do your dishes today”!









HerCampus McGill's Campus Correspondent! Montreal girl studying History with a minor in Art History (diverse right?). I'm planning on going to law school next though, because I want to learn how to help women navigate this silly patriarchal system! #TheFutureIsFemale