To Speak, Or Not to Speak, That is the Question

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Image credit: photo by NEW DATA SERVICES on Unsplash.

So many of us have held back saying something that we think or feel for fear of the reaction by another. Whether that other is a loved one, acquaintance or stranger, more often we “stuff” our feelings and/or leave important words unsaid.

We may be afraid that the other person will be discontent, disappointed, or angry with us. Some of us may not be willing to take the perceived risk of speaking our truth, thus saying nothing and ending up angry or resentful or angry ourselves.

Is Speaking Up Worth it?

Sometimes we are concerned about…

  • What will he/or she think of me if I say this?
  • Is it really that important?
  • Is it really worth it?

Often we view speaking out as confrontation, which has a negative connotation for many. Some may feel it’s easier to sit quietly and wait for the storm to pass than to find the courage to speak up. Although doing so could run the risk of not establishing our own emotional worth in the relationship, or end up potentially damaging the relationship by building a wall of resentment.

 As per Liane Davey, Ph.D, who served as an evaluator for the APA Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, “You could be just as responsible for the dysfunction on your team as your aggressive, combative colleagues. That’s because it’s a problem when you shy away from open, healthy conflict about the issues.”

You Can’t Avoid All Confrontation, but You Can Improve How You Deal With It

Every day we deal with situations or people that don’t meet our expectations, or respond how we desire. Confrontation can be defined as hostility, defiance or opposition, yet it can also be seen as a “bringing together of ideas, themes, etc., for comparison” (as defined by dictionary.com).

These conflicts can cause feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. Examining our own responses to confrontation, instead of denying, or avoiding, our emotional distress can have a result in positive emotional growth. 

What does Confrontation Mean to You?

Each of us has developed a method of dealing with confrontation based upon how conflict was addressed in our family, our personality, or from the situations we have endured in our life.

For many of us, confrontation has a negative connotation. It means raised voices, hurt feelings, anger, or silence and comes with the consequences of getting hurt in either a physical or emotional way. The response we received as children when we expressed our opinions may have shaped how we deal with issues as adults.

Do You “Stuff” Your Feelings?

For those of us who swallow our words, it could be because we are avoiding a confrontation because of the fear that it could result in some kind of potential pain.

Fear of Loss

Sometimes it’s easier to withhold our thoughts and feelings rather than worry that the other person may leave the relationship or judge our opinions. We believe holding our tongue and leaving words left unsaid will preserve the relationship.

Fear of Causing Pain

Worrying about the other person’s response may raise feelings of protectiveness and the desire to avoid a confrontation. We’ve decided the other person isn’t emotionally equipped to deal with our concerns.

Fear of Strain

The action of confronting someone produces a stressful physical response in us. The action of confronting someone may be more distressing than dealing with the issue itself so we may feel that those words are best left unsaid.

Fear of Failure

What if our opinion isn’t valid? We fear the judgment, or dismissal of our point.

By suppressing thoughts, and avoiding the confrontation, we may hinder the further development of a relationship and result in erecting a wall of separation. Finding the courage to conquer fears of self-expression could result in a healthier mindset.

Confrontation Can Produce a Positive Result

A positive way to define confrontation would be to address something directly and in an appropriate way. Change your approach to think of confrontation as more of a conversation to make it feel less intimidating.

Speaking up doesn’t have to be viewed as a confrontation. If we practice expressing ourselves by using “I” to convey feelings of distress, instead of projecting blame by using “You”, we could enhance our relationships and validate the worth of our own emotions.

The process of speaking up offers us the opportunity to discuss something with another so that both parties are clear. Not everyone appreciates, or is willing, or even knows how to have a civilized exchange when each person may perceive what is happening differently.

Sometimes expressing our emotions and thoughts will distance people because they aren’t comfortable with what they perceive as conflict, while with others it can actually expand and deepen a relationship where it can become more emotionally intimate.

Nurture Your Emotional Health

It is emotionally healthy to be able to express what we think and feel. For many of us we weren’t taught, or weren’t encouraged, to address our thoughts and feelings as a child so it feels awkward and unfamiliar as an adult.

The more we do it, the more comfortable we are, and the better we get at expressing ourselves in these situations in an appropriate way. The opportunity to express ourselves in a positive manner may make it possible to let go of something, otherwise we may be holding onto resentment or discomfort.

If you struggle with suppressing your emotions due to avoidance of confrontation, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance & Counseling located on Long Island can help alleviate that burden. Our licensed therapists have helped many people find methods to express themselves in an appropriate manner, helping them nurture and grow healthy relationships.

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