I have always been the type of person who isn't afraid to speak up in any given situation.

Even as a child who was often picked on, it never stopped me from standing up and speaking out for some kid who was also being taunted by other students.

I have found myself in situations on the job or within other organized group dynamics where serious issues needed to be addressed and for some reason, I was always chosen as the spokeswoman to bring the problem to light.

Having the boldness to speak up and call people out when necessary can leave you marked as the "bad guy" or the "trouble maker," but sometimes, doing so will be the catalyst to promote positive change.

One thing I have learned to do before voicing my opinion or concern is to gather and research the facts.

It can be quite detrimental to your cause (along with making yourself look like a complete fool) to open your mouth when you have no idea what you are even talking about.

The only thing worse (in my opinion) than people who refuse to speak up when they know that they should, are people who start spouting off their opinions with little, if any, consideration for the facts or other sides of the story or situation.

I respect that others may have an opinion that is different from mine, however, if your opinion is based on false information, you should probably keep it to yourself.

Additionally, while there are times when we need to and should speak up, it is not necessary for us to voice our opinion over every situation, especially if we do so in a rude and confrontational manner.

Not everything should be up for debate nor does everything necessitate your unsolicited input.

I know many people who struggle with this, and after years of fallout and consequences, they still can't seem to figure out why.

I hate to pick on any group of people, but I have to say that I often find that the teen through age 30 groups seem to be clueless as to when and how to speak up, and when to simply close their mouths.

Important issues that could use a strong advocate are overlooked, while trivial ones seem to be cause for a screaming match or worse.

It's too bad, too.

There is much that is wrong in our society and many things are just screaming for a champion to jump in and make a change (for the better), and yet, I can't help but wonder if we have failed to equip the younger generations on how to do so.

Therefore, the next time you feel the need to speak your mind, here are some things to consider to help make the experience a productive one:

1. Pick your battles. Don't make everything into an argument. Nothing good will ever come from it. Speak up for the right things and for what is right.

2. Know your facts. I can't stress this enough. Don't let your ignorance be someone else's ammunition. "You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant." Harlan Ellison

3. Know your audience. "Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words." Proverbs 23:9

4. Be sensitive to the opinions and feelings of others. Be attentive. You can't expect someone to listen to your point of view if you are not willing to hear theirs.

5. Be calm and respectful. Not doing so is the quickest way for you to be shut down or tuned out. Don't let your emotions get in the way of your common sense or ultimate goal. Remember, it isn't always what you say, but how you say it.

6. Get to the point. Don't dance around a problem and don't ramble on about it. In this fast-paced world most of us have the attention span of a flea.

7. Know when to stop.

Finally, some words of wisdom from Abraham Lincoln: "I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it."