Just say it.
This seems to be a common experience that we all share. Many of us have been raised with our default set to humility and a sometimes-overrated sense of politesse. It wouldn’t be polite to just say what is on our mind or in our heart because we fear sounding rude or abrupt. We equate graciousness with good manners. We fear a loss of personal dignity if we respond in a truthful manner. We fear rejection. What if someone quit loving us if we just said it? We are taught to paste a smile on and accept someone else’s bad temper, insensitivity, rudeness, or crudeness . . . because it wouldn’t be polite to respond in a manner that might paint us as the bad guy, the rude girl, the jerk, the b#*@h.
We fear this – a negative judgment from another. Well, maybe not all of us. I know several people who just bust a move when it comes to saying something, to self-advocating, to being themselves, to expressing their opinion. All . . . while the rest of us bottle things in and feel badly or beaten up because we did not express our authentic self or because we didn’t have the chutzpah to stop someone from bullying us.
Why don’t we just say it? I am not advocating a thoughtless burst of words that take no account of collateral damage. No one wants to be the belly-acher. The complainer. The person who always belches out opinions-as-gospel-truth. I believe that it is wise to be thoughtful with our words and actions. It is smart to be aware of and develop our emotional intelligence quotient – our EQ – so that our rational brain has a chance to catch up to our amazingly speedy emotional brain and circumvent an emotional hijacking. An emotional hijacking can best be described as our amygdala – the specialist for emotional matters – taking control over what we do and/or say while the neocortex – the rational brain – is still coming to a decision. We all know what it feels like when we have allowed a hijacking to take place . . . those moments when we say, “I can’t believe I actually said that out loud.” Or “I don’t know what came over me.” These moments can have defining consequences.
Still. Remaining pleasantly and politely silent in the face of bullying tactics or plain and simple rudeness or abuse of power has defining consequences, too. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t better to just say it and deal with the aftermath of a hell-acious emotional hijacking only to find that I am kicking myself later for allowing someone else to thoughtlessly tear down my sense of worth or level of contribution or value to society.
I don’t know. This is tricky stuff. We want to be good people who are considerate of others. And there are times when “Just Say It” flies in the face of heroic passivism and turning the other cheek. But is there a way to balance this . . . especially for the introverts of the world who may not be as comfortable speaking up in public or professional situations? Is there a way to self-advocate and feel good about the situation later?
I believe there is a way. I read a quote that really spoke to me at the time, and it has stuck with me these many years later. This is a paraphrase, I believe: “Say the truth, but say it in love.” In other words, go ahead and say it, but know what is fueling your words. Is it anger, jealousy, passive-aggression? Is it a desire for clarity, for setting the other person straight regarding your thoughts, feelings, or intentions? As I write, I realize that this quote is the perfect way to pull back on the yoke and glide out of an emotional hijacking situation. That “just saying it” can be a unifying force. So, speak the truth, but say it in love. Love for the other person. Love for you, yourself. Love for building a better community. Love, love, love.