I posted here part one on Just Say It.
Steps to doing it
I was shy growing up. And it’s no wonder—with my speech impediment, Asperger’s Syndrome and dyslexia, I had a steep hill to climb to make myself heard and understood. So I know how hard it can be to speak out. As a little kid I often got beat up for speaking up; when you’re the one who speaks out, you draw the attention of bullies. Yet even as a little kid, something in me knew I had to, even if it meant making a fool of myself—which I often did.
From years of working to find my voice, and working with hundreds of men to do the same, I came up with a few key steps. One warning, though: these steps may not make others happy, but they will set you free.
Get clear on what you’re doing in the present moment
- Check in with your body. Are you tense? If so, where? Are you holding your breath? What does your body want to do? Does it want to leave? Are you avoiding a person or a conversation?
- Slow down to allow yourself to feel, very specifically, what is occurring in your body. Where is the most distressed part of your body? Are you clenching your jaw, holding your shoulders, collapsing your rib cage? Get specific. The more you feel your body, the more you will feel your emotions, the more you feel your emotions, the more you will have to speak.
- Listen behind your thoughts. Listen as if you are listening to a child whine—not to the words, but to the tone that is crying out for what the child needs.
- Notice how you want to distract yourself through your avoidance behaviors. You may want to get busy, or change the conversation, turn on the TV, lose yourself surfing the Internet. Some people exercise too much, eat too much, or sleep too much. Identify your own avoidance behaviors, and make yourself accountable when you try to slip into them.
Take your power
- You don’t need to follow. We all are trained to go with the herd. Notice when you are agreeing when you don’t really agree. Notice how naturally you agree, even superficially, to get along. This is not to say you need to suddenly become a leader of a group; it’s just that you don’t need to follow the pack. You can exist in your own space.
- You don’t need to speak up about everything. When not speaking leaves you feeling like you betrayed yourself or another person, that’s when you need to speak up.
- Choose the place and time to speak the unspeakable. When there has been an elephant sitting in the room for some time, you can choose when to point it out. Don’t wait until a crisis causes the truth to come out. Take a big risk and bring it up when you have an attentive audience.
- It’s not about having a script or having it all rehearsed. That won’t work. Someone tried to do that to me several years ago. When he was done with his soliloquy, I stood up and clapped. The rest of the group burst out into spontaneous laughter. It was a great performance[TR1] , but it wasn’t real and it wasn’t his truth.
- Have an emotional outline. Lay out what you feel and want before the conversation, knowing that you might not stick to it once the conversation begins—because once you start speaking, you will probably discover things you didn’t even realize you felt. Consider these aspects:
- What happened?
- What is or isn’t happening?
- What are you feeling? NOTE: You do NOT need to prove or justify your feelings. They are just your feelings.
- What do you want? Remember, though: It’s not so much about others “getting it” as it is about you speaking it. You have no control over how someone will hear you, react to you, or feel about what you have to say. You may want a heartfelt apology, but you may never get one. But just speaking the words, “I felt very hurt by your actions,” can be incredibly liberating.
- Listen. Put it out there, then wait for a response. Keep breathing and feeling. Their reactions may not have anything to do with you.
- Make your decision. After you fully expressed and experienced others’ responses, you get to decide what’s next. Do you trust the person(s)? Do you need to make a new agreement? If you did, would he or she keep it?
The first few times you do this, it will be rough–especially if you are trying to speak honestly to someone who is not honest with himself (or herself) or you. As you are doing it you may think, “I suck at this. I can’t keep my focus. I can’t remember what I came up with. I’m not articulate.” All that might be true, but it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you’re breaking an entrenched pattern of keeping quiet.
When I started speaking out again as an adult (at some point, I decided the price was too high, and I started shutting up—well, shutting down), a lot of old emotional energy was being released, and I would shake and cry. The next round of emotions coming out was my suppressed rage. (Don’t be too alarmed at that. I’ve never seen released rage result in any violence.) Usually, you’ll just shout and swear. You lose control as all the unspoken feelings come out in the moment.
After a few of these full expressions, you will find that you speak up in the moment without forethought or effort. It is natural. You’ve taught yourself that you’re not in danger, and you can speak freely.
Choose one to three catch-up conversations for the next week where you in some small way get honest with someone. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Speaking your truth can be a positive comment about why you appreciate the person. Something you’re thinking, but that you normally wouldn’t share. Some of the most difficult discussions to have are the ones where you are expressing your love.
Please share this with others who might benefit. I never met a man in this culture who didn’t come out of childhood repressed in some way. Enjoy speaking your truth. Share what occurred when you applied this. What was the hard part? What was the easy part?