When Should You Speak Up?

When should you speak up?





People would say:

  • never – “I’ll lose my job”, “I’ll make enemies”, “I won’t be respected for a difference of opinion”, “It’s not my problem. I don’t want to get involved”, “I don’t like it but I need to live with it”, “I’m the peacemaker”, “I don’t want to cause trouble”, “People won’t like me”
  • sometimes – “If it’ll get me what I want”, “When it’s serious enough”, “When I’m asked for my opinion”
  • depends – “Depends on whether or not I have the time”, “Depends on how it will affect me”, “Depends on what other people think first”

And so people show up to work every day, put their heads down and say nothing unless spoken to.  In their personal lives, they repeat the same habit – speaking up very little to “keep the peace”.

The Inevitable

One day, as it will inevitably happen, there will be an explosion.

Everyone, at one time or another,  shows up at work and in their personal lives tired, irritable, and generally not well.  It’s all too much.  They blow.  They say something to someone and it’s not good.  All that pent up energy simply discharges.

Like a volcano, they have “blown their top”.  Pressure has built up so much, sometimes over many years, that the wrong thing is said to the wrong person with the wrong reaction!

What’s the Alternative?


Speaking up is not a one time event.  It’s a skill developed over time and the learning never stops.

When a person practices daily to speak up in work and social situations, that person increases their ability to communicate effectively.

When a person explodes, no one hears them.  Like a volcano, the eruption is so intense that people are taken aback by the intensity and the focus of others becomes to calm the person down instead of listening to what is being said.

Where Do You Start?

Start by deciding every day will be practice day.  When a difference of opinion arises, speak up even in benign situations such as where to have lunch.  Notice the words and tone of voice used and after the exchange, think about how the message could have been conveyed better or pat yourself on the back for a successful exchange.

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

With practice, an eruption is unlikely to happen unless planned for a purpose.  Sometimes eruptions can be effective but great care is required in the execution.

If a person is always practicing expressing themselves, others will get used to it and a strong opinion won’t be such a shock.  Self-control will be easier and the message is likely to be heard even if the outcome is disagreement.

Expect Disagreement.

We are all so different.  What seems to be perfectly logical and make sense to one person, doesn’t to another.  Everyone expressing themselves in a respectful way often results in surprising outcomes where collaboration or co-operation may occur or a “truce” of sorts.  If not, at least everyone knows where everyone else stands on an issue which, in itself,  is a form of peace.  Dialogue can continue.

Lorraine Arams




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