Having strong opinions about everything and sharing all of them, even when they're not wanted, is not a formula for social success. But many of us face a problem that's quite the opposite - being hesitant to speak our mind and voice our opinions, even when invited to and when doing so could offer some real help.
Often, we're reluctant to speak up because we doubt the value of what we have to offer. We fear others may criticize or reject our views, suggesting we're "wrong." Such fears are very real, but they shouldn't define you.
While it takes courage to speak up, especially if it's something you don’t usually do, it's a valuable skill to learn to manage your fears and act responsibly. Rather than being silent and then regretting not saying something, learning to express yourself can bring a real sense of accomplishment and involvement.
Speaking up doesn't mean that you've made your self-doubts disappear, but that you're courageously taking action in the face of those doubts. The key to speaking up is to mix the acknowledgment of self-doubt with refusing to accept the status quo.
Being respectful is an important element in learning to speak your mind. It starts by learning to listen first. You need to show you understand the views and opinions being expressed by others before sharing your own.
Your goal is not to convince others or start an argument, but rather to express the differences you feel. By sharing your own experiences and opinions you let others see new sides of you and your opinions on a subject.
You can avoid arguments by starting your views with the word "I." You also must accept that while what you're expressing is what you know to be true, others will be feeling exactly the same way about their views.
Being decisive is another element in learning to express yourself openly. You want to clearly and strongly state your thoughts without worrying about the outcome. Don't undercut your views with phrases like "Now this may not be true..." or "I'm not sure about this..." Instead, be bold, take a stand, and allow others to do the same.
Speaking up allows us to interact with others and live life more fully. While what you have to say may sometimes be dismissed, there will be other times when you really communicate and made a difference. Those are the times that will mean the most. "The Counseling Corner" is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more about the counseling profession at the ACA web site, www.counseling.org.
If you would like further information or to speak with an EAP counselor, please contact your confidential Employee Assistance Program at 303-982-0377 or visit our website
. Your EAP offers no-cost assistance to all Jeffco Public Schools employees, their family members over age 15, and retirees. “Confidential help from caring professionals…”