Having always been more of a sheep that follows rather than a wolf who leads, I have always remained happier in a crowd, following expectations, and acquiescing so as not to rock the boat or stick my head above the parapet. For most of my years I have had a constant fear of others thinking that if I spoke up I was making a fuss, being unreasonable and confrontational or drawing unnecessary attention to myself.
Looking back, I feel a little bit sad for that person who put up, shut up, and let important things go unsaid.
I remember hearing someone say that once you reach your forties you care more about your own opinions and less and less about other peoples’ and this realisation for me has come as one of the benefits of reaching this stage in my life.
We all know someone, or a few people, that are born voice ready and have no qualms or inhibitions in saying ‘No thank you…I disagree with you…I don’t like what you just said…I don’t want to…’ and alike. I envy these fearless souls who can speak their truth aloud and proud. When confronted, or simply when they feel the need, these folks can speak up, explain, justify, and empower themselves verbally.
While I am now able and want to speak my mind, I am yet to master the eloquence and expressiveness of my confident peers. My cheeks turn red, my voice does not sound like my own, I stutter, and stumble over every word and I have to swallow the urge to apologise, or say ‘don’t worry,’- it’s a start though.
“Unpacking where our fear of speaking up came from can be the first step in creating lasting change.”Psychologies.co.uk
Interested in why some people have an innate voice when others struggle to find one-this is what I discovered.
Safety in numbers is a primal survival instinct in most species, and we are no exception. This deep rooted behviour could go some way to explaining why some of us feel more than a little bit nervous about standing out from the crowd.
Similarly, the feeling of rejection is one of the hardest of human emotions to bear. Being made to feel silly, wrong, guilty or even worse, ridiculed, for putting yourself out there, can condition someone to forever think twice about speaking out.
Personally, for me, the thing that puts me off speaking my truth is any potential anger or confrontation that could come back at me for speaking up. However, there are some strategies that have helped me to overcome my nerves when I need to speak up:
- I think about how I would feel if I didn’t speak up. If not speaking up does me or someone else a disservice, then I know I have to.
- I write down my feelings as facts and as simply as possible.
- I ask the person that I want to speak to for a time and a space that works for them (and me)
- If there are heightened emotions, then I remain calm and repeat my point.
- I stay focused on what I want to get across and won’t be drawn into talking about other things.
- Once I have spoken and know that I have been heard, I am happy to leave things, agree to disagree and move on.
- I always listen to what the other person is saying back to me.
- I try really hard not to dwell on a tricky conversation or overthink things after.
I may never be one of the super confident and assertive individuals of life, and who knows maybe those that roar the loudest use their voice and words as a defense or shield-to keep people away-that would also make sense.
In the moment of fight or flight it seems that some choose noise, and some choose quiet. For now, though I am happy to raise my voice-just a little bit.