5 Healthy Alternatives to “Biting Your Tongue”

While I consider myself someone who is willing to speak with family with ease, I can clearly recall times in business or in social relationships where I’ve held back, not asked for what I desired, or avoided being honest about what would work for me—often finding I had mental and physical signs of stress to […]

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While I consider myself someone who is willing to speak with family with ease, I can clearly recall times in business or in social relationships where I’ve held back, not asked for what I desired, or avoided being honest about what would work for me—often finding I had mental and physical signs of stress to go along with it too!

With recent studies showing that 69% of managers resist communication with staff and 72% of employees acknowledge that they do not speak up at work when they think they should, some different tools for speaking authentically are needed.

The road to healthy and open communication isn’t difficult, but you must be willing to make some essential changes in your mindset and approach:

Be honest with yourself.  

Most of us can recall “negative” experiences from speaking up. Whether we have been met with offense or upset, or received ridicule or shaming, we learn to avoid saying things in case of rocking the boat.

It’s time to eliminate that mindset and ask yourself in honesty: What contribution, creativity or opportunities does holding your true voice back actually deny you and others around you? Ask yourself: If I was willing to be honest with me, what is my point of view about this situation, and what would I truly like to say here?

Be real and not what (or who) you think you should be. Many of us build up an image of how we are supposed to be in our job or company and try to mimic others around us. We pick up their ways of communicating rather than valuing the difference we are that would actually allow us to engage with others more authentically. When you are being yourself and are at ease with you, you don’t have anything to prove or an image to maintain, and people notice that difference. They sense your “realness” and will open up to your genuineness and vulnerability. Ask yourself: If I wasn’t trying to be like everyone else, who would I be? What would I choose?

Be curious and don’t underestimate what you know. Many of us avoid speaking up because we decide that we lack the experience, insight, or knowledge required to have valuable input. Or we assume that someone else knows or has already tried to change it. What if you speaking up is exactly what is required to change it?

Most people complain because they are more interested in discussing the problem than finding a solution. Be willing to bring up the issues, and challenges, and bring creative and innovative ideas, too. Having ideas isn’t just about having answers, in fact, your questions can be the gateway to even greater creativity. Ask: What do I/we know that will help resolve this situation? What questions can I/we ask that we haven’t asked?  What can I/we add to this problem/project/service/team that could change it? If this wasn’t a problem, what opportunity would it be?

Listen more, and tailor your speech. If you are willing to listen to people and ask them questions, they will give you all kinds of information and insight that will give you greater awareness of what it is that you can say to them to create more. Ask: What does this person know about this? Ask them questions about what they know, what they desire, or how they see things working better.

It’s also important to acknowledge that everyone is different in how they can hear things, and it can be different at different times. Before you speak, ask: What is the other person willing and able to hear right now? Is this conversation I would like to have with them for now or another time?

Don’t expect a certain resolution. Approaching interactions with an expectation that things will work out a certain way (positive or negative), stifles authentic communication.  Anticipating, expecting, and trying to control certain outcomes is all about trying to create from forcing, and can have a very negative impact on your body’s well-being as well as causing a lot of unnecessary mental stress.

Be open-minded, be present with all people and information, and be willing to let the conversation flow. Having your true voice comes from communicating without judgment. Don’t make it about anger, or blame, or shame, or who is right or wrong. Rather, stay curious about what is possible and ask: What would create greater for everyone involved here?

It isn’t healthy to sit in silence when you have something to say, but it is just as unhealthy to speak with limited perspectives clouding the contribution you can be and receive with others. Allow your voice to come from unlimited and unbiased questioning and curiosity and you may be surprised at what your words can inspire.

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