Ever worry a friend may get angry when you say, “no”? Do you get mad at yourself for saying, “yes,” when you really want to tell a family member, “no?” How often do you hesitate to speak your truth to a colleague or supervisor?
You are not alone. Husbands and wives go along when they prefer to stay home. Friends say nothing while festering inside. Supervisors ignore tardiness and performance issues.
What prevents people from speaking up? Simply put, they do not want to rock the proverbial boat. Most people do not want to see another person hurt, angry, or upset. To many this means keeping thoughts and feelings to themselves. It sometimes leads to regret for not saying anything.
Why are we so afraid of other people being angry? Some say they learned at an early age to keep their mouths shut. This usually follows with a story of a parent or authority figure showing up with violence or aggression when angry. Anger is a feeling. Some people act with aggression or violence when feeling angry. Not everyone does so.
Let’s go back to the not speaking up part. Rather than chastise yourself for not speaking up, it helps to understand the fear that arises. Perhaps the child in you said nothing to maintain safety. After giving yourself some empathy, distinguish whether the current situation might be unsafe or uncomfortable.
While safety and comfort may seem to go hand and hand, you may be uncomfortable and still be safe. Then it may help to consider what the price might be of not saying anything: are you sacrificing ongoing personal peace by saying nothing?
Before deciding whether to rock the boat, you may give yourself some empathy by completing these three sentences:
1) It is okay to feel ____________(afraid, uncertain, etc.). I have a need for ________(safety, security, etc.). Before moving on to step two, make sure you give yourself empathy. When you are ready, go to step 2.
2) If I do not say something, I may feel __________ later. Speaking up will meet my need for ________________ (clarity, self-expression, etc.)
3) I have a right to share my truth in a calm, respectful manner. I cannot control how the other person responds. I am prepared to maintain my confidence and compassion, while keeping myself safe.
Need help getting comfortable speaking your truth? Want to hear how to do so without rocking the boat too much? Learn more in a peace building class or conflict resolution skills training.