Communication has always been a value I hold dear to me. Finding ways to clarify, understand and ensure understanding through communication, and learning how to do it better myself – because I’ve not always been great in it – has become not only a personal interest but also what I have built my vocation around working in and training. As a result, there have been and still are many times I’ve come up against blocks in expressing myself and communicating clearly that, most often when they appear, have taken me by surprise. This just means I’ve had the opportunity to deep dive and explore what might be the possible reasons my voice has gotten stuck in my throat, even when I’ve genuinely tried to express something. These are some of them:
- I’m asking for something extremely important to me and it all depends on how they respond. I’m a big fan of being a grown ass, independent adult who gets to be in charge of my own decisions. Sometimes, as it so happens in life, those decisions are also subject to another’s import, which is simultaneously wonderful when you get to co-create something, and anxiety-inducing when it’s something that matters to me a lot and what they say could make or break it. Especially… mainly… when I know it might involve some kind of actual effort on their part that I’m asking of them. In due course, I (now) tend to find a way to express this, but occasionally, and particularly in face to face conversations, it can still get caught in the ethers somewhere between my brain and my voice, and requires a conscious untangling process to get there. Ask for patience – of yourself and from the other person – take a breath and just get out what you can. It tends to unfold from there.
- I’ve already stated what I want, or asked for change, to no avail. Have you ever gotten tired of asking the same thing or setting the same boundary over and over again, only for it to continually be ignored or dismissed? It may be a colleague or manager not respecting your lunch breaks by seeking you out and talking about work-related things more than regularly, or someone who is always moving or using something of yours but never returning it, replacing it, or even having a conversation with you about it. It could be a plethora of other scenarios that fit the bill. Either way, you’ve asked before, you’ve stated that you’d rather things be different, you’ve set those healthy boundaries, and yet… It continues. Suddenly it seems easier to simply ‘give up’ instead of waste your time and energy using your voice when the other party simply isn’t paying attention. In scenarios like this, it might become more about making another choice entirely. When it comes to boundaries that aren’t being respected, maybe it becomes less about trying to resolve it and more about what you need to do to remove yourself from the situation, or face living in an unexpressed, resentful state.
- I haven’t processed it enough yet to articulate it effectively. It’s okay to ask for space to process something and consider carefully before responding. Depending on the situation, they’ll always let you know if that’s not going to work, and you can adjust your best response possible response from there. But they can’t let you know that if you don’t ask for what you need. Note: this is not about diving into avoidance. It’s more about taking space for understanding so you know that your response can actually come out in an intelligible way rather than confused, inarticulate, and potentially not actually connected to your truth in the matter. When I’ve tried to force myself to respond while my mind has still been busy in processing mode, it only leads to agitation (on both sides) and a deeper sense of confusion.
- I feel ambivalence or hopelessness, so ‘why bother’? When we feel like we don’t have a say, we tend to try less. The thought process is around ‘why would I bother spending my energy on something when it won’t make a difference anyway?’ In a way, this is a healthy discernment of where we want to put our energy. On the other hand, it also edges towards defeatism, which means we miss out on expressing what’s important to us or the potential to impact positive change. I tend to lean towards the approach of giving it a try anyway, and avoiding the risk of being stuck in the ‘what if?’ about life.
This list is in no way complete as to the ‘why’ we might struggle with finding our voice. It’s simply a start that I find helpful in exploring and determining what’s going on internally, so that I can work on and move through the block getting in the way.