Speak Your Truth

Some people feel confident voicing their opinions under any circumstances. For the rest of us, there’s often a certain amount of anxiety — or even dread — that comes from articulating points of view we suspect will be unpopular among family, friends or coworkers. We may sit in nervous silence when such opportunities present themselves, then later have misgivings or regrets.

The trouble is, this can create a pattern of discomfort that eats away at the authenticity and depth of our relationships with others even as it undermines the confidence and respect we feel for ourselves.

According to psychologist Susan Campbell, PhD, author of Saying What’s Real: Seven Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success (HJ Kramer, 2005), fears of speaking our truth generally come from our natural desires to be accepted and connected. She asserts that it’s possible, though, to enjoy both connection and integrity. The key lies in finding ways to clearly voice our perspectives, while also expressing care and respect for those willing to hear us out.

Anxiety about speaking your truth when you fear that your views may create discomfort, dissent or distance.

Fear of offending. This is rooted in fear that you will break your connection with others.That means fear of loneliness and loss of power — the power to get people to stick around.”

Not wanting to be judged. This is actually a cluster of anxieties centering on self-image: “It’s fear that if you say what you truly believe, you’re not going to seem competent, credible or lovable.” The result is a habit of self-censorship and a lack of confidence in owning your opinions.

Not wanting to come off as negative. You may have heard the adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” and somehow interpreted this as meaning you should never voice alternative views.

A sense of futility. If you’ve found in the past that asserting your opinion made no difference to the powerful people in your life, you may be inclined to think, ‘What’s the use?’ today.”

Stay connected. Since most of our worries about speaking up forthrightly center on the primal fear of losing connection with others, the best way to defuse them is to concentrate on maintaining those links even as we speak our minds. Expressing appreciation for another’s willingness to speak his or her mind, even if it is radically different from your own, is one good way to do this. Voice the connection. Let the other person know that your honesty is an attempt to be real with him or her and to strengthen the relationship. Transform your life by speaking your truth.