Self-advocacy refers to one’s ability to take full responsibility for the expression of their needs. When you are able to identify your needs and communicate them clearly you can help others understand how they can support you. This skill is vital when you must stand up for yourself and speak for your needs and desires.

Individuals who have good self-advocacy skills usually show the following qualities:

  • Understanding of their value and high self-worth
  • Awareness of goals and desires
  • Ability to articulate their needs
  • Good emotional regulation

Being able to effectively communicate your needs and desires is beneficial in both personal and professional contexts. In the workplace it is particularly important to speak up when you are being taken advantage of, not receiving credit for your work or experiencing stagnation in your career.

Developing strong self-advocacy skills means you will be able to champion your needs and gather the support you deserve. This is a vital skill in achieving your goals, establishing respect and building strong relationships. Thankfully, self-advocacy is a skill you can develop over time with a little effort and guidance.


The benefits of self-advocacy

  • Heightened self-awareness
  • Increased chances for promotion
  • Greater ability to achieve goals and objectives
  • Ensures you achieve the recognition you deserve
  • More effective boundaries
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Improved communication and relationships with others
  • Allows you to receive the support you need from others
  • Improved work-life balance

The barriers to self-advocacy

The barriers to self-advocacy can be rooted internally or be influenced by external factors in your environment.

Internal blocks:

  • Self-doubt
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of communication skills

External factors:

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Tips for communicating your needs and advocating for yourself

Being clear and assertive in expressing your needs and wants can be challenging for most people. Self-advocacy is about finding a way to bring your challenges to the surface to be resolved without communicating self-pity, self-victimisation or incompetency. The key is to speak from a place of self-worth, be solution-focused and clearly express your intention to improve the current situation and not to cause unnecessary conflict.

1. Know your worth

Know where you contribute and what your strengths are. Understand the value you bring and what you offer. Believe you are worthy of being listened to, having your needs met, achieving your goals, being supported and getting acknowledgment for your work.

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Most people shy away from advocating for their needs because they fear the conversation will be uncomfortable and painful. This limitation will cause more discomfort for you in the long run. Become comfortable in less desirable emotions and practice remaining calm and composed in states of heightened stress. This is not to suppress your emotions. The purpose is to better react to your emotions so you can represent yourself and express your needs in the best way possible.

3. Know when it is the right time to speak

It is often challenging to know when to speak up for yourself. Do you speak up in the moment to avoid swallowing your emotions? Do you allow things to settle and take time to reflect before you express yourself? Each situation will call for a different approach. You will have to be able to exercise situational awareness. You will need to know your own ability to communicate relative to where you are and what needs to be expressed. Having good self-awareness will also be vital in this step.

4. Know how to set boundaries

Being able to stand up for yourself and communicate when someone has crossed a line is a critical skill to develop in your professional and personal life. The first step is recognising when a boundary has been crossed. Then you must have the self-worth and self-confidence to communicate your experience. It can be as simple as the following formula: ‘You did x, it made me feel y. I would rather we did z’. Clearly state their action and the boundary that was crossed. State its impact on you and suggest a solution.

5. Handle conflict with grace

In the event of the conversation becoming hostile, there is no need to panic. Whatever the conflict is, it is always better to remain calm and in control of your expression. Avoid becoming emotional and aggressive by paying attention to three vital aspects of your communication:

  • Your body language: communicate a relaxed and composed state
  • Your tone: speak calmly and slowly and avoid raising your voice
  • Your words: remain neutral and to the point. Avoid any accusations or attacks

Digital coaching as a tool for enhancing self-advocacy skills

Working with a digital coach can elevate your self-advocacy skills and improve your ability to communicate in a short space of time. Coaches can identify limitations holding you back, highlight areas of improvement and provide tailored exercises to contribute to your growth.

Coaching offers guidance and mentorship, expert communication techniques, accountability and motivation to stay on track. If you are struggling to advocate for yourself and communicate in challenging situations, a digital coach can be the professional support you need. The sessions are entirely virtual, they can take place in any location and are flexible to fit your schedule.

How to find a reputable and qualified digital coach:

  1. Define your coaching goals and know what you are looking for
  2. Research coaches specialising in communication skills
  3. Make use of free consultations
  4. Ask for proof of their credentials
  5. Ask for testimonials
  6. Outline your top priorities and ask each coach if they can deliver
  7. Choose a trustworthy coach that you feel comfortable with

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Self-advocacy will always be a necessary skill in every area of life. Begin with developing your self-worth and confidence in your communication skills. Improve your self-awareness to be able to know when and how to speak up. Work on getting comfortable with discomfort and soon you will have little trouble advocating for yourself. Ensure to prioritise self-reflection, assertiveness, and boundary-setting and you will soon become a more powerful communicator.

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