How to Effectively Self-Advocate to Get Your Voice Heard
How to Effectively Self-Advocate to Get Your Voice Heard with Sarah Centrella.
FREE COACHING in this episode!
Today on my podcast, The Sarah Centrella Show, I'm sharing some exciting news for the first time, and 6 tips on how women can effectively self-advocate.
Girl, you’ve gotta speak up. Here’s the raw truth, if you don’t self-advocate, you can’t complain when people take advantage of you, treat you unfairly, or walk all over you. That’s the hard truth. It’s no one else’s job to stand up for you or look out for your best interest, that’s a, you thing.
If something seems unfair, or unreasonable to you, say so. I know women are sometimes scared to speak up for fear of being labeled “bitchy,” or a “Karen,” or whatever other derogatory name is popular at the moment, but there’s a way to be heard without being that bitch.
Being able to speak up for yourself is such an important part of a successful, happy life. It affects every aspect of your life whether you realize it or not. If you don’t speak up when someone does you wrong in a professional sense, you likely don’t advocate for yourself in relationships either, or business, or at school, etc. The financial and emotional cost of this silence can be massive. This can be a huge block to success, love, and financial abundance.
There are so many areas of life where this is key, that I thought it best to share a few examples and then give some general tips on how you can begin self-advocating.
In 2015 I took a job as a mortgage loan officer for a large company while awaiting the release of my first book. The manager who hired me said the position would be commission only. Part of this seemed normal to me because I knew commission is how you make money in mortgages, but the other part (my gut) knew that couldn’t be right. I was treated like a full-time employee, with all the expectations and none of the pay, something was defiantly off. I asked my co-workers if that seemed normal and they all confirmed, “that’s just how it is.” I double-checked with my boss. Everyone seemed ok with it.
This is the moment I had that choice, the one we all have. I could have gone on working there like all my co-workers and just sucked it up, or I could do something about it.
I called a lawyer.
I am going to stop my story here to make sure you really get this. In 2015 I was a full-time single mom responsible for a family of four, who was waiting for my first book to come out and therefore had made next to nothing on that front, who at the time had no savings and had a job that didn’t even pay minimum wage. To put it bluntly, I could not afford to hire a lawyer. But I knew that in many cases you don’t need money upfront if you have a strong enough case, and so I called.
As it turns out, the lawyer took my case and I won. The money from that settlement funded my trip to Italy with my children in 2016. I never paid a penny out of pocket for my lawyer. But the part of this story that really matters to me, is that because my case was successful, other employees were able to bring a class-action lawsuit which was also successful, ultimately forcing the company to stop that practice.
Most people don’t stand up for themselves thinking it’s going to make a bigger impact, I know I didn’t, but it can. All it takes is one person to fight for what’s right, and that can change the president for others as well.
I share this specific example because I KNOW women make a lot of untrue assumptions that keep them from getting what they deserve. I’ve told this story and had women say, “I would have never done that because I thought that ‘big business’ always has more money and more lawyers than me, so why bother?” Or because “I can’t afford a lawyer.” Stop assuming things! Go ask. Make an appointment. Bring facts. Ask questions. Do NOT take no for an answer. And for god’s sake, stop passing up opportunities to get what you deserve. Speak up.
I am constantly reminding my kids of their responsibility to speak up and self-advocate, I believe it’s something we should teach them young. I always tell them; you can’t complain to me about a bad grade, and not say anything to your teacher. It doesn’t work that way.
I remember when my son Kanen, was in 8th grade, he wrote a paper that he felt strongly was graded too harshly. He came to me with all the reasons why he believed he deserved a better grade. “Great!” I said, “go tell your teacher everything you just told me.” We went over his reasons again, compared them to the teacher’s requirements assembling his argument so he’d know exactly what to say. I reminded him that no matter what the teacher decided, we would accept the outcome, what mattered was that he’d done his best to be heard.
That was one of the first big lessons in self-advocacy Kanen took on by himself, and it worked. He made a strong case, and the teacher could see where he’d missed giving Kanen points and changed his grade. Kanen knows now that it’s always best to have that conversation, no matter the outcome. State your case, and if it doesn’t go your way, at least you know you’ve done everything in your power.
Okay, so I know that there are a million different situations and scenarios where you can and should self-advocate, everything from relationships to family to business, and I get that each one is a bit different, but here are some general tips for how to stand up for yourself and get your voice heard.
These tips are the key to presenting (and winning) your “case.”
I learned this the hard way from a duche boss many years ago. He used to put me on the spot about everything, intended to humiliate me. I’d get a few sentences into answering his questions or explaining why I’d done something, and he’d cut me off. “No one is interested in the whole story Sarah. Get to the facts. I don’t care about feelings, give me the facts.” Honesty, that was some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.
1. Keep it clear and simple. Explain the situation as simply as possible, leaving out unimportant details.
2. Watch your tone. You know the saying; you can catch more flies with honey? Well, bring out the honey girl! Ask for what you want in a tone that doesn’t come across as threatening or angry. In other words, start with kindness.
3. Know your facts. When relaying (or re-relaying) the situation, keep the summary short and to the point, but full of all the important facts.
4. Be clear about what you want. There should be no doubt as to what you are asking the other party for, how can they correct the situation?
5. Where appropriate, ask if there is anything you need to do to expedite them correcting the situation, or to make it better.
6. Remember that if they are unwilling to hear you out and fix it, you always have options; you can take your business elsewhere, you can walk away, you can leave a poor (truthful) review, you can get a lawyer, you can share your feedback on social media. Chances are if you are having a bad experience (with a company or service) others are too, and your honesty in speaking up can help more than just you. There are always options that are better than silence.
Check out my chapter on this in my new book All the Things I Wish I Knew, as well as 80 other life lessons, coaching and advice on how to live your best life.