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Confrontation: How to stick up for yourself

From furious road rage to intimidating supermarket disputes, it’s easy to have your day ruined by a total stranger. But how do we deal with these public incidents without feeling like a trembling mess and walk away with a smile on our face? Afraid to stick up for herself but sick of feeling like a pushover, Ali Roff decided to find a foolproof plan for dealing with stranger-rage.

by Psychologies

how to stand up for yourself

What do you do when you are faced with confrontation, for example being verbally attacked by a complete stranger? How do you react in those first few seconds? Do you stand up for yourself; tell them it’s not acceptable, maybe even scream back? Or do you try and be the bigger person and ignore them?

In our fast-moving, stressed-out world, it seems we are increasingly quick to jump down each other’s throats and treat each other badly; road rage, barging onto trains, even accidently catching someone’s eye can see you caught up in a dispute sometimes.

And while it depends on the situation, when faced with controversy we can often find ourselves lost for words or becoming angry or upset, feeling afterwards like we have either been dragged into an irrational rage or have just let someone walk all over us; neither of which are great feelings, let's be honest.

So what is the best way to deal with confrontation from a stranger? And how can we stick up for ourselves?

How to speak calmly in the face of stranger rage

When we do need to speak up and respond, psychotherapist Sherylin Thompson says it’s best to simply state the facts calmly in order to avoid falling into a dispute.

Caroline Goyder, speech coach and author of Gravitas (Vermilion, £12.99), gives her steps to speaking steadily when standing up for yourself.

  • Take a deep breath and let the natural release of adrenaline and cortisol pass, as the emotions they provoke only last about 4-8 seconds.
  • Relax your shoulders and uncross your arms. Take another breath and then speak on an emotion that you choose. The diaphragm responds to emotion and because the voice is connected to the diaphragm you will now be communicating your chosen emotion, which is infectious to the other person.
  • Have compassion to help connect with more positive emotions. Remember we all have bad days and reasons for doing things that might not be clear to the outside.
  • Speak from your gut, keep your voice low and centred in the body and not high up in the throat.
  • Sing. The best way to practice using the voice from your centre is singing.

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Read How to develop mental grit on LifeLabs