Speak Up or Suck It Up? When and How to Voice Out?

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel oppressed by one who holds power? Have you ever felt powerless at certain times and you don’t know how to react? It might be during a tutorial lesson, a group assignment, or even in a conversation with strangers. The feeling of being accused, mocked, and oppressed, can make you feel uncomfortable yet you feel too weak to stand up for yourself. You wanted to say something to defend yourself but you have no idea how. You wanted to react to the situation but all you did was stay silent because of fear.

I’ve been in such a situation and the suppression felt so real. It was during a tutorial class with a lecturer, who assigned a task and requested us to do a presentation 15 minutes later. I was in a group with a friend who had an extremely good foundation in English, with an extensive vocabulary repertoire and has almost perfect grammar. Hence, we prepared the slides with our knowledge with ease and finished it within minutes. During the presentation, when we presented our slides and explained to the class, the lecturer listened for a bit and then stopped us right away. 

“Wait, did you guys just copy and paste this from the website?” She raised her voice.

“Look at the sentence structure and the bombastic vocabulary, I don’t believe this comes from both of you, Chinese girls. You must have copied them somewhere else; you should know that plagiarism is a serious academic misconduct, right?” She continued with her snobbish voice to lecture us on the seriousness of plagiarism.

I looked at my partner and she was welling up with tears. I wanted to shout “No!” right at the lecturer’s face but I was too dumbfounded listening to the unreasonable lecturer putting false accusations on us. I sucked it up the hard way.

It was at that point of time that I realised I needed to equip myself with ways to speak up for myself should I face such a situation again. I do think it’s truly important to know your rights and to speak up so that you’re treated with respect by others, no matter if they’re in a higher or lower position than you. You deserve to be treated with basic respect. If someone crosses the border and points fingers at you for something that you did not do, you can, you should, and you must defend yourself rather than giving in because of fear or lack of courage. You have the right to explain the situation at that very moment to reveal the truth even if the person doesn’t seem to trust you.

Other than that, you also have to be observant to read facial expressions at the moment before you decide to voice out. In a typical situation, there might be a person who started this whole scene to drag you down. This person might be testing your limits, to see if you would respond to the tease. If this person is telling you with a serious look, you may also respond to warn them not to mess with you when you speak up. However, if you feel like this person is just pulling your leg in a casual conversation yet it makes you feel uncomfortable, you may tell them directly in a gentle manner that you don’t appreciate the mockery even if it’s a joke to them. You have to be really alert to speak up for yourself using the most suitable manner under different circumstances to avoid being unfriendly to your friends.

Besides observing facial cues, do use appropriate language when speaking up. I always believe that speaking up for yourself is an elegant move. So using appropriate language without shaming others will show your character. On another note, we should always mind our manners when telling the truth to avoid turning a situation into a fight which can be embarrassing for both parties. 

For instance, if I were to relive the situation where the lecturer accused me and my teammate of plagiarism, I would have answered, “Dear Miss, whatever you’ve just said is an accusation. Please show us your evidence if you think that we’ve copied from the internet. In fact, we’re familiar with this topic and hence are able to express it with our own words. I hope you can further explain and clarify what you’ve said as it sounds like you’re accusing and discriminating us. We’re still proud of this presentation that we’ve prepared and we’d like to continue as our classmates are interested in it. Thank you.”

Lastly, I’d like to empower you, to speak up for yourself to defend your rights, and gain your respect. Using all the tips given above, you can be an elegant and courageous person when speaking up for yourself. As the proverb goes, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” I sincerely hope that everyone uses the right words when speaking to make the world a better place.

One of The Risers’ ambassadors, Jasmine is an assertive, bold and cheerful student currently pursuing her Bachelor of Education (Hons). She enjoys teaching, learning, singing and exploring new stuff.

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