A friend gets a call from a guy she emailed, telling him how she felt about him but wasn’t certain how he felt about her. She said she understood if he was hesitant to pursue a relationship, but that she really did like him.
It was not the sort of message you put off answering, but he waited three weeks to reply. Three weeks? His response: “I’m flattered, but . . .” My friend politely explained that she figured as much, and after a laugh and a “Talk to you later,” they hung up and haven’t spoken since.
My friend was livid at the time, but you wouldn’t know it. What she wanted to say was “Oh, I am so over you. I kind of got the message like three weeks back that you weren’t that into me and now I’m just not that into you anymore so get over yourself.” But she didn’t. She kept her feelings to herself and since then can’t stop thinking and talking about it. She is still dealing with anger over his inconsideration in his delayed response after she opened her heart and mind to him, and, sure, the hurt of rejection. But I think if she had spoken her mind, she would feel a lot better now.
Why is it that we never say the things we really want to say at the times when we really want to say them? We all face situations where someone says something which draws our ire and stirs up negative emotions, and what do we do? We just sit there taking it in with a calm and polite demeanor, the picture of lady-like gentility, while on the inside we’ve become a shrieking fury, grinding our teeth and telling them in no uncertain terms what we really think.
Why do we do this to ourselves? What are we waiting for? What do we have to lose? What do we have to gain by not speaking up? What are we afraid of?
There is no one easy answer to any of these questions. Most people are raised to be polite and to not start arguments, so ingrained habit keeps us quiet. At other times we just want to look like we have it all together, cool and collected under pressure. To lose one’s temper and blow off steam publicly means dropping the Zen faÃ§ade. Sometimes we keep our mouths shut because we don’t want to be rudeâ€”truthful, but rude.
Often we don’t trust ourselves to say the right thing, or fear the regret we’ll face later for losing our cool. It feels easier to not cause conflict. The last thing we want is to stir up trouble, which inevitably means stirring up emotions. And God forbid we get rejected for speaking up. The fear and pain of rejection seems much worse than expressing what you really feel. Whatever the reason, we become pushovers to keep the peace. Except there is no peace on the inside. Our hearts and minds are in turmoil. We long to stand up for ourselves and for what’s right, but we don’t.
Whether it’s a boss, co-worker, friend, family member, or significant other, we have to be willing to embrace our fears or forsake our reasons for silence and speak up. Waiting until the timing is right is a good idea, but sometimes the Time is Now. You might tell someone that a habit of theirs is annoying. It may be telling off a potential love interest who is stringing you along. It may mean confronting a verbally abusive spouse, an act which results in the end of the marriage, but in the long run, you’ll be at peace for having done the right thing.
You’ll be surprised at who is receptive to your words. Some people may respect you more for speaking up. If they reject you, is that really a loss? If they don’t accept you for who you are and how you feel, then good riddance. Speaking out is hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. In time, you’ll be able to say what’s really on your mind with cool confidence.
If you have a positive experience in finally speaking up, I want to hear about it. Post your encounter and how you felt afterward to inspire others to do the same. I look forward to reading your posts!