Published on April 21, 2021

How To Speak Up For Yourself When You Don’t Know How

How To Speak Up For Yourself When You Don’t Know How

Have you ever found yourself completely frozen in a moment where you want to speak up for yourself? And later, you think of all the things you could have said? There’s actually a scientific explanation as to why this happens.

When we are faced with an immediate threat, our human nervous system becomes dysregulated. The immediate threat we’re facing could simply be our boss speaking firmly to us about missing a deadline. But evolutionarily speaking, this event will register similarly in our nervous system as a saber-toothed tiger baring its teeth at us.

Now, this nervous system dysregulation can go a couple of ways, according to Dr. Stephen Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). In all cases, when we face a threat, we’ll first go into fight or flight mode. Our heart will start to beat quickly, our sweat glands will activate, and our field of vision will narrow.

If the threat is severe or lasts for a long period of time, we may even get knocked further down what researcher Deb Dana calls the “autonomic ladder” to a frozen or collapsed state.[1]

In either case, whether we’re in fight/flight or freeze/collapse, our brain has very little access to the ability to engage in coherent communication. This is because we’re consumed with ensuring our safety.

Here’s something important to know: these states of dysregulation are not a bad thing. In fact, they evolved to help us survive. But when we’re worried about our survival, we can’t speak up for ourselves easily.

Ensure Your Safety First

Knowing everything we just discussed, first of all, please forgive yourself if moments are going by where you’re not speaking up for yourself. Ask yourself: was I just trying to survive or stay safe at that moment?

If the answer is yes, then no wonder if you may have found yourself placating or frozen instead of speaking up. You are forgiven. What’s more? congrats! You have a well-functioning human nervous system.


To speak our truth, we need to feel safe. So, the reality is that if you don’t currently feel safe with that boss—or that friend, spouse, family member, etc.—you’re gonna have a darn hard time speaking up for yourself at the moment.

Here are two pieces of good news, though:

  1. The best way to practice this skill, especially at the beginning, is after the fact.
  2. The more you practice these skills, the more you’ll be able to use them at the moment as time goes on.

So, go get somewhere safe you can practice, and dive in and learn how to speak up for yourself.

The Voice Body Connection Process

As a voice and movement coach, I have been teaching voice and somatic practices for over a decade, and I’ve been studying them for essentially my whole life (this is embodied research, after all). To help you speak your truth in any situation, I’m going to introduce you to what I call the “Voice Body Connection process.”

Over the years, I created this process by synthesizing knowledge and methods from theatre and singing pedagogy, communication theory, speech science, yoga practice and philosophy, psychology, and especially Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s work Body-Mind Centering.

Here’s what to do: bring your mind to a specific moment that you want to understand more deeply. It can be this moment right now or a moment that you remember from the past. (If it’s from the past, imagine the following questions in the past tense.)

Step 1: Sensation

What is the strongest sensation I feel in my body right now?

We start with this crucial first question. After all, as Bessel van der Kolk’s research teaches us, our bodies keep the score.[2] Before you can speak up for yourself, you need to know what you’re actually feeling. And to understand what you feel, start with your body.


Example: “Right now, my heart is beating really quickly.”

Be sure to keep your answer body-focused!

Step 2: Stimulus

What do I think is the stimulus that led me to feel this sensation?

This is likely a very simple statement about what happened. You should just keep it simple. Otherwise, you might get lost on a thought train.

Example: “And I think it’s because my boss just lectured me about missing the deadline.”

Step 3: Emotions

What are my emotions about noticing all of this?

The next step is to tap into your emotions. If you’re not sure how you’re feeling, here are some basic emotions: anger, fear, sadness, happiness, arousal, disgust, and tenderness. Keep in mind that it’s totally reasonable to be experiencing a range of emotions, and you can include them all.

Example: “This makes me feel angry and afraid.”


Step 4: Desires

Do I have any desires related to everything I just noticed?

Next, you can discern any desires that might be coming from all of this. Sometimes, surface-level desires are covering up deeper ones. So, if you’re confused, keep in mind that human desire tends to boil down to the need for safety, comfort, love, and growth.

Example: “And what I really want is some support to get all my work done and to know that I still have my job.”

Step 5: Presence

The transition to help you feel comfortable releasing your voice

Part of the reason we don’t speak up for ourselves the moment something is happening is that we’re not really present. This is essentially another way of saying that our nervous system is not regulated. If thinking through all of this has gotten you agitated in any way again, take a few moments to breathe.

One of the best ways to be sure that you are present is to blink your eyes and focus on the colors, shapes, and textures of the world around you. As you get better and better, you’ll be able to do this process quickly at the moment!

Step 6: Expression

Sharing your voice

The amazing thing about everything you’ve done so far is that they have allowed you to build a script for yourself! If we put the example all together as written above, it currently reads:


“Right now, my heart is beating really quickly and I think it’s because my boss just lectured me about missing the deadline. This makes me feel angry and afraid, and what I really want is some support to get all my work done and to know that I still have my job.”

Now, you’re not necessarily going to say exactly that to your boss—not all of it is necessary. But maybe, what you say to your boss later in the week is something like:

“Hey, when you spoke to me earlier about missing the deadline, I felt upset. I want to let you know that I had too much work on my plate to get it done, and I need some more support if I’m going to meet the existing deadlines. I want to excel at this job so you and I both feel secure.

Pretty great right? And it’s super clean, too. You’re not getting mad at your boss for their outburst. You’re simply speaking your truth.

Step 7: Communication

A real conversation

After you’ve expressed yourself, it’s important to leave space to see the impact you’ve had on the person or people with whom you’re communicating. This is when the real conversation starts and when speaking up for yourself starts to really pay off.

Keep in mind that this process we just went through might continue ad infinitum. You may constantly need to return to your bodily sensations to know what you feel and want to say next. Do this so that you stay grounded in speaking from your own experience—speaking up for yourself—and not in speaking for anyone else.

How This Will Change your life

You may notice that when we use the word “feelings” in the English language, we could be referring to several things: our bodily sensations, our thoughts, our emotions, and even our desires.

The Voice Body Connection process takes apart these different aspects of our feelings so that we can be clear with them. When we use this process to practice getting safe and clarifying our feelings, we will get better and better at speaking up for ourselves. The more you practice this process, the more you will know what to say in the kindest, most effective way.

More Tips on How to Speak Up for Yourself

Featured photo credit: Melany Rochester via


More by this author

Elissa Weinzimmer

Vocal Health and Confidence Coach and Founder of Voice Body Connection

How To Speak Up For Yourself When You Don’t Know How How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.


It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.


Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.


1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.


6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

More Tips on Dealing With Fake People

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via

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