Have you ever felt the urge to contribute to a conversation, to call out something that you’ve found offensive, disagree with something someone is sharing with you, but something stops you – as though you’ve been silenced from within. Why do we do this? What is it that stops us from speaking up in our relationships?
There can be many reasons and it’s different for everyone, essentially, it’s as though there is a very fast calculation going on, where we’re working out what the ‘fall out’ will be if we speak up and then calibrate our response accordingly to minimise the impact back on us.
What are we protecting? Again, it’s different for each of us and depends on the situation, but it could be fear of how the other person will react; not wanting to ‘offend’; fear of being attacked or ridiculed; not wanting to stand out – to be different or wanting others to like/love us; holding the other person to ransom for past behaviours or judgments. Whatever it is for us, the thought of one of these things happening, seems so much worse than sharing what we were going to say.
However, we can’t possibly know how the other person will react or how they will respond and vice versa. Yet, if we are not prepared to be open and transparent with people, how can we expect others to be that way with us? If we are not prepared to just say what we feel to say, then it just sits in our bodies as a private conversation between ‘me, myself and I’. The trouble is, those unspoken conversations can still be felt, something just doesn’t feel right and therefore the body doesn’t truly settle.
This behaviour leads us to having arrangements with each other, where there’s an unspoken agreement that ‘I won’t push your buttons if you don’t push mine’. This can be very common in families and it’s really insidious how these arrangements deeply affect and interfere with how we are with each other. We can contort ourselves into the most ridiculous situations and the longer we stay ‘ignorant’ to the game we’re actually buying into, the harder it is to truly enjoy and love being with each other. Why? Because we are having these ‘private’ conversations and harbouring hurts from the way we perceive others are treating us, while refusing to communicate or admit our part in the ‘arrangement’.
The game continues until we are prepared to be honest enough to acknowledge what is going on and to choose to stop the silencer and instead share what we feel to say in the moment.
By doing so, we are being honest, which is the most loving way to be in a relationship. We can’t possibly know how our words will be received, but when we get the impulse to share something with someone, lovingly and not in reaction, not to do so is denying everyone the opportunity to grow and learn from the situation.
When we run these internal risk assessments, don’t speak up and calibrate what we say to each other, it’s super important to know that we’re choosing to play a game, by not being honest. If we chose to be honest, we make life so much simpler because we put the emphasis on allowing each other the space to share the truth of how things are. Then we can deal with misunderstandings or addressing the expectations we are placing on each other.
Playing the calibrating and calculating ‘not speaking up’ game, is exhausting and poisons our relationships.