Have you ever taken inventory of your social circles and asked yourself, “Do I feel seen, supported or psychologically (emotionally) safe?”
If you answered “no” to any of these three areas, it may lead to difficulty with speaking up for yourself which is known as self-advocacy. This is your ability to communicate your own interests, desires, needs and rights effectively and boldly.
People who self-advocate are more likely to let others know how they feel and what they need to thrive in many areas of life including relationships, at work and in your community.
Perhaps your ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as identify and adapt to other people’s emotions influences speaking up for yourself. It’s essentially about emotional sensitivity to the world around you which is called emotional intelligence.
I can imagine there have been times when people tried to silence you. Guess what? You survived those moments. It’s in your ability to work through these challenges that makes you a great self-advocate.
As a Black woman, I am often in spaces where I’m one of few if not the “only one in the room” which means the spaces often don’t have people that look at me and attempts to be inclusive have fallen short. This is frustrating.
If you’ve been “the only one,” at times it’s conversational and other times it can feel like you’re invisible. I’ve learned that the sense of invisibility is not because of who I am, but due to the other person’s discomfort with interacting, saying the wrong thing or being afraid to break the norm.
Why this topic?
Many people were never actually taught how to self-advocate but recognize it doesn’t feel good when they’re being walked over or pushed aside.
When I think about my life, I was never taught how to self-advocate – verbally and nonverbally. No one taught me how to bring my whole self into spaces and speak out.
Non-verbally? Yes, non-verbally. Verbal self-advocacy means using your words and non-verbal means using your body language, tone and presence to demonstrate assertiveness.
Speaking up for yourself can be scary especially when you’re in a space where you don’t feel seen, supported or psychologically (emotionally) safe.
No hiding, no censoring, and no code-switching.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “code-switching” is a kind of behavioral adjustment and strategy used by Black people to navigate interracial interactions impacting their well-being, economic development and even physical survival.
It is likely that code-switching is the result of poor emotional intelligence when situations don’t require you to switch, but more so a time to speak up for yourself.
Here are 5 strategies to self-advocate better using emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness. Being aware of your interests, desires, needs and rights can lessen confusion about how people can expect to communicate with you.
- Self-regulation. When you’re grounded, you have a greater chance of being able to think through your options when self-advocating or being on the receiving end of someone else speaking up for themselves.
- Motivation (internal and external). When you feel more emotionally secure, you’re able to focus on internal and external motivators to show up for yourself and others you care about. Motivation is about building confidence and resilience even when things don’t go as planned.
- Empathy. This is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to see a situation from their perspective. When it comes to self-advocating in a less than diverse and inclusive space, empathy is vital because chances are you’re not alone.
- Social Skills. Having the ability to adapt in a way that invites unique differences and communication styles is important for self-advocacy. If you’re having a difficult time with change, speak up. If you have a great contribution, speak up. If there is a conflict, speak up. Social skills require you to use your voice (yes, even as an introvert) so you can be seen, supported and psychologically safe.
It’s time for you to begin elevating your voice because your voice matters.
McCluney, C., Robotham, K., Lee, S., Smith, R., & Durkee, M. (2019). The cost of codeswitching. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on 11/1/22 from https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-costs-of-codeswitching
The Institute for Health and Human Potential. Meaning of emotional intelligence. Retrieved on 11/1/22 from https://www.ihhp.com/meaning-of-emotional-intelligence/