Are you afraid to say what you think? Would you rather stay silent than speak out? Do you feel like it’s something you just can’t get over? Well, believe it or not, this fear is quite common. In fact, it’s connected with low self-esteem, insecurity, and a lack of assertiveness.
How can you overcome it? In this article, we’ll try and answer this question. We’ll also suggest some hints to help you stop this fear from playing a major role in your relationships with others.
Being afraid to say what you think
Being afraid to say what you think can be explained by various causes. For instance, a lack of self-esteem, assertiveness, or self-confidence. We’re going to emphasize the lack of assertiveness. Indeed, this is one of the key fears involved in the fear of expressing yourself.
Lack of assertiveness?
Experts first defined assertiveness in the 1940s. In fact, psychologist, Andrew Salter defined assertiveness as an ability to express personal opinions and wishes. Salter found in his research that practically everyone is capable of being assertive. However, we don’t all experience the same kinds of situations.
Assertiveness has a lot to do with the fear of saying what you think. The more assertive you are, the less afraid you are to express yourself freely. Salter also stated that, over time, assertiveness means standing up for your rights in a respectful, honest and sincere way.
It’s really encouraging that you’re able to develop this skill. Therefore, if you work on it, your fear of saying what you think will be reduced.
Professor Craig Malkin of Harvard University (USA) suggests a technique to help you become more assertive. He claims you should use the following communication structure:
“I feel A (feeling), when you do B (action). I’d feel better if C (request)”.
Why does it happen?
At present, there are different explanations for the causes of fear of saying what you think. Here are some of the most common:
You feel you’ll be rejected
Many times you don’t say what you think for fear of rejection. The University of Michigan (USA) conducted a study that revealed that your body creates the same chemicals when you suffer social rejection as when someone hits you. Indeed, rejection really hurts.
The reality is, if you continue along this path for a long time, you won’t be yourself anymore. That’s because you shouldn’t depend on the opinion or approval of others to be happy. For this reason, it’s really important to work on your self-esteem and assertiveness.
You believe that what you think has no value
Another possible cause behind this fear is the (false) belief that what you think has no value. Or, that your thoughts don’t contribute anything useful or important. In part, this is also connected with self-esteem and self-confidence.
Naturally, at times, your contributions won’t be anything new. Nor may they be particularly “relevant”. However, you mustn’t underestimate or belittle them. Because what you think always has value. It’s also always unique.
You think you’ll make a fool of yourself
The fear of saying what you think can also be due to the fear of making a fool of yourself. That’s because you strongly believe (falsely) that you will.
The sense of ridicule is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it prevents you from being harmed by a situation. However, on the other, it can be paralyzing. This is especially relevant if you’re shy and insecure. In addition, feeling paralyzed prevents you from facing new challenges and being yourself. For this reason, you’re extra careful about not “making a fool of yourself”.
What you should do, is ask yourself what making a fool of yourself would actually mean. Furthermore, what would happen if you did? Would it really be so serious? This is a good exercise in reflection. It’s a little trick that relativizes and de-dramatizes. In fact, it ultimately makes you see that nothing that could possibly happen could be that bad at the end of the day. Not even making a fool of yourself!
“It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”
How to stop being afraid of saying what you think
Can you stop being afraid of saying what you think? Of course, you can! Although each person will achieve it in their own way, here are some general guidelines to start working on it:
- Start with easy situations. You can start by saying what you think with the people you feel most confident with. Also, stick to topics that aren’t too sensitive or likely to cause conflict. Little by little, you’ll be able to take on more difficult situations.
- Trust yourself. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? However, you know it isn’t. For this reason, it’s something you should work on little by little. For example, with psychotherapy. Self-confidence is key to reducing the fear of speaking your mind.
- Analyze how you feel. After trying to say what you think in easy situations (gradually increasing them in levels of difficulty), ask yourself how you felt and write it down. Reflecting on those emotions will help you get to know yourself better. Furthermore, you’ll be able to detect any possible fears when expressing what you think.
The path to being yourself
Overcoming the fear of speaking your mind is an open door to the path of being yourself.
Expressing your own opinion is a sign of integrity. It even makes you more attractive. That’s because it gives you an air of sincerity. The key is to work on your assertiveness. In addition, to be clear that your contributions are always important.
Logically, if you want to contribute something really valuable, you shouldn’t necessarily say everything that comes to mind. In fact, you should form a critical opinion of the situation and think carefully about what you say. Furthermore, you must always be mindful of the language you use.
It’s not about being overly candid and blurting out anything and everything. In fact, assertiveness involves the ability to be honest in a respectful way. There are many ways to do this. However, always remember that the manner in which you express yourself is extremely important. That’s because it influences the way the person ultimately reacts to your message.
“It’s okay if you don’t like me. Not everyone has good taste.”
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