6 Fears That Prevent Us from Speaking Up!

Do you value being seen and heard? Do you desire to have truly successful and authentic relationships? Do you want to make an impact on others?

Then speak up!

Of course, for some people, that’s easier said than done. You might prefer to train wild lions than tell another person what’s really on your mind. But it is possible to develop an assertiveness connecting head and heart that clears the way for honest, empowered living — without being rude to others or surrendering to “nice-it is.”

“We all need to learn to dance in rhythm to the beat of our own soul,” writes Kelly Bryson in his book, Don’t Be Nice, Be Real: Balancing Passion for Self with Compassion for Others.

There are a variety of reasons people don’t speak their minds when they really should. Here’s 6 of them:

  1. Fear of being rejected. Any time you risk disclosing yourself, you become vulnerable. Communication skills, such as those taught in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) or Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC), teach us how to combine vulnerability with strength and compassion for powerful connections.
  2. Fear of what you would tell yourself if you or any requests you make are rejected. If you speak up and tell that person you’ve been secretly admiring, how much you would like to go out on a date with them, you definitely risk rejection. But if you are rejected, does that really mean you are unlovable? Destined to a life alone? Or is that just a story you tell yourself. Wouldn’t you really like to know – so you can bring closure or move on regardless of the outcome.
  3. Fear of hurt feelings. Related to this is the belief that it is better to please others, even at your own expense. As Bryson points out, being the “nice” person is actually a form of violence to yourself and others, and an escape from a fully live life. Sometimes we don’t offer valuable feedback to others, in fear of hurting their feelings. Doesn’t this just deny them the opportunity to learn and grow from your feedback?
  4. Fear of “rocking the boat,” or upsetting the status quo. The writer Muriel Rukeyser spoke to this fear in her memorable quote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
  5. Fear that you have nothing worthy to say. Years of poor self-image or a lack of confidence may have gotten you here. But you don’t have to stay here. Your voice matters! If there are people around you who don’t appreciate you, or don’t listen to what you have to say, then find people who will. Many people would be happy to hear what you have to say and would appreciate you for it.
  6. Fear of sparking a conflict. If you have an abusive or volatile family history, you may have learned to keep quiet or to be invisible to avoid confrontation. And yet the danger is that constant suppression of powerful feelings can lead to frustration, festering anger, and possibly aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior.

It is important to distinguish between being assertive and being aggressive. Aggression trespasses on another’s boundaries without regard for feelings. Assertiveness, on the other hand, communicates feelings, thoughts and needs clearly and directly.

Speaking up after years of zipping your lips may not be easy. You may need to take baby steps – take classes or workshops or hire a coach. The payoff is more effective communication, stronger interpersonal relationships, genuine intimacy, and more than anything, an increased feeling of self-respect and empowerment.

If you are looking for help to release fear or own speaking up, coaching can help. Call Linda at 416-617-0734 or email linda@lindacattelan.com.

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