When we were young most of us were told to “speak up,” to “say what’s on your mind,” and to “tell us what you think.”
But many of us find that advice hard to follow as we mature. Instead, we hold our silence and end up feeling frustrated or embarrassed because we didn’t express what we really felt or believed.
Speaking up can and should be a positive experience. Done correctly it demonstrates our willingness to share our experiences, perspectives and suggestions.
And while speaking up may sometimes bring a negative reaction, it still can leave us feeling satisfied by knowing that we shared what we believe to be right or helpful.
If you find it hard to express your thoughts, some simple principles might make it easier to speak your mind.
The first one is simply to be courageous. We often don’t speak out simply because of self-doubt.
It may have us fearing that what we have to say will be resisted, or rejected, or might even bring retaliation.
Those are all very real fears, but giving into them will leave you feeling powerless and frustrated.
Instead, acknowledge your self-doubt and fears, then step up and be courageous enough to express yourself.
Often you’ll find that there really was no basis for that self-doubt, and even when your words bring a negative reaction, you’ll still feel good for having had the courage to have made your views known.
Along with being courageous it’s important to be respectful. Rather than just speaking out, first take the time to listen. When you do speak you want to show that you understand and respect the views and values of others before expressing your own.
Your intention is not to convince others, but rather to express the differences that you’re feeling. Acknowledge that what others are feeling and believing also has legitimacy.
Finally, speaking out successfully requires you to be decisive. Speaking up is your decision to voice your convictions without being preoccupied with the outcome. You can be polite and respectful of others, while still being clear about what you feel and believe.
It takes time and practice to get used to speaking up and expressing your views, but it’s worth the effort. Your goal is not to always get your way or force your views on others, but rather to share what you truly think and feel.
Speaking up is an important part of sharing and participating in the human experience.
“The Counseling Corner” is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation’s largest organization of counseling professionals.