If you’re like most people, you aren’t as bold and forthcoming as you wish you were. Most of the decisions you make on a daily basis are rooted in how others perceive you. In other words, you make choices and say things based on how you think other people will think, feel, and respond. You’re basically running your life through an external filter.
One of the major challenges with this approach is that it prevents you from saying what you really think. It keeps you from speaking your mind – even when something needs to be said.
But what if you could change this? What if you could become one of those rare people who step up, remove the filter (in a good way), and speak your mind? It would change everything.
Why is it So Hard to Speak Your Mind?
Speaking up is hard for everyone. (Some people have just become better at putting themselves out there and being intentional with their words.) And the simplest explanation is that we are afraid. We’re afraid of what people will think if we step up and say something unpopular or difficult…so we say something else instead. Or we water it down to the point that what we say is only a mere reflection of what we believe to be true.
As leadership coach Isabel Valle writes, “We have convinced ourselves that the pretend version that we got so good at presenting to the world, is somehow a better version of us.”
The challenge is unlocking who we truly are at our core and then presenting what we believe to be true without fear of what other people may think. For most of us, it takes a lifetime of hard work to reach a point where we’re able to do this. But if you’re proactive about it, you can begin taking small steps today.
3 Tips for Speaking Your Mind
Just as every word you speak has consequences, every moment of silence has consequences too. The same goes for every lie and/or statement that’s watered down or cloaked in acceptable generalities. There are consequences to everything you do or don’t say – so why not speak what you believe to be true?
Here are a few tips:
- Start Small (and Practice Often)
You don’t have to suddenly launch into a 10-minute Facebook Live video where you share your deepest thoughts with thousands of people. The first step is to begin small. Take small incremental steps and you’ll eventually work up your confidence to be more open and transparent.
For example, if you believe in protecting the Second Amendment, but are afraid of the backlash that could come with that, something simple like wearing a pro-firearms t-shirt is a step in the right direction.
The key is to practice these little actions often and eventually turn them into much bigger ones.
- Gather Your Thoughts
Speaking your mind and ranting isn’t necessarily the same thing. The goal is not to lash out at someone or make a scene. Yet, unfortunately, this is what most people do when they finally speak up after bottling up their emotions for weeks, months, or years.
If you want to be an effective communicator, it begins with gathering your thoughts and thinking before you speak. Choose words that are clear and specific but not rude, hurtful, or aggressive. The goal is to be assertive without pushing people away.
- Take a Pause…But Don’t Delay
If you find yourself in a situation where something makes you angry, the best rule of thumb is to take a pause. Take a few deep breaths and let the emotions level out a bit. Then calmly and empathetically address what needs to be said. However, a distinction must be made between pausing and delaying.
A pause is a momentary break that allows you to collect your thoughts and speak with greater poise and credibility. A delay is where you unnecessarily stall because you’re fearful of speaking up. The latter is dangerous and will actually make it increasingly difficult to say anything at all. A pause lasts for a few seconds or minutes. A delay lasts for hours, days, weeks, or months.
Adding it All Up
The next time you encounter a situation where you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly, have a better idea, or simply need to say something to be honest or help someone else, remove the filter and speak your mind.
Yes, it may feel uncomfortable, but that’s where growth occurs. The longer you sit still and water down your thoughts, the less valuable you become to those around you.
Stop settling for insignificance when you can live a life that impacts others!