by Nyanda Walker-Potts, FAV Communications Intern
It is common to see the news full of protesters and activists who stand up and speak out, and it seems like it is easy for them. They are full of passion and the desire to make a change. It is inspiring and impressive and it makes the person watching feel like they can do anything.
Realistically, however, it is not that simple. Sure, when you see the story about people being honest and making a change, there’s a part of you that wants to experience the same thing. There is a bigger part, nevertheless, at least for some of us, that wants the change, but not the attention.
How do we make that work then? How do we advocate for better things if we do not like the attention? If we are naturally quiet and introverted people? If we say nothing, then nothing gets done, but the idea of speaking up is very uncomfortable. What do we do?
Assertiveness is important and necessary. Not just in civic engagement, but in life. A person’s biggest advocate is going to be themself. If you can’t take up for yourself, who is going to do it?
These are things that I have discovered about assertiveness. It is absolutely a process, and it is not easy, but it is important to be able to state your needs/wants in all settings. You can be an introvert and still be assertive. Being honest about things does not mean you are not being true to yourself. It might seem weird or uncomfortable, but there are steps you can take to make yourself more assertive. With that being said, in the nature of honesty and advocacy, here are a few tips that helped me to increase my assertiveness.
1. Determine how you communicate. To start, it is important to identify your communication style. There are plenty of ways to say something, and it will help make you more comfortable if you are aware of how you come off to others. There are four main styles of communication: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Figure out the way that you communicate so that you can plan the uncomfortable conversation accordingly. Stay aware of your tone so that things do not come off differently than how you mean them.
2. Be honest. There is a sense of relief that comes with being honest about the way someone or something makes you feel. The truth of the matter is that if you are not honest about how you feel, people probably are not aware.
3. Be patient. This is an all-encompassing tip. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the person you are talking to. Be patient with the business you are trying to get a hold of. Change can take time.
4. Be compassionate. It is easy to become angry or annoyed when you are talking to someone who feels differently than you, or who does not understand where you are coming from. It is much better for everyone, however, if you come from a place of compassion. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and keep in mind that we are all human.
5. Be heard. I know that I mentioned patience a few steps back, and I still stand with the fact that it is important. However, patience does not mean passivity. Do not let things go if you want them to change. Do not let the length of time things take steer you away from speaking up. Change is hard, but it’s worth it. Make sure they hear you.
All in all, advocacy is not easy. It takes courage and time and patience, and sometimes it is just easier to say nothing; especially when you don’t really want to say something in the first place. Conversations can be difficult, but difficult conversations lead to impactful change. Don’t let your uncomfortableness steer you to complacency. Be an advocate. You can absolutely do it.