8 Tips to Make it Easier to Speak Up Anyway

Last week I wrote about the importance of speaking up anyway to say "enough hurting," even when we're afraid to do so. Today I wanted to share a few tips for making it a bit easier to speak up, since we know how challenging and intimidating it can be to do so, especially in an unknown and potentially hostile situation. Here are 8 tips:

  1. Make sure it's the right time. If someone else is in danger or being hurt, and you can help them without putting yourself in significant danger, then it's probably the right time. But, there are times when silence is the better strategy. For example, speaking up about cruelty to animals during a meal with your omni friends or family will only hurt your credibility and any chance to help the animals.
  2. Use compassionate communication. No matter how the other person reacts, maintain compassion in your manner and words. You don't have to take abuse -- you can end the conversation at any time -- but always speak kindly and politely. Additionally, don't just walk up to someone and tell them they're doing something wrong. Ask them a question (be careful about making assumptions about what you think you're seeing) and find a way to make a connection. You can also approach in a helpful, non-judgmental way: "You look like you're having a rough day; can I help?" or "I noticed x, and I thought you might not be aware that y. Can I offer assistance?" It helps to practice -- a lot -- with a loved one in a safe environment. Think about past encounters you've had or witnessed, and practice modeling compassionate communication.
  3. Don't take it personally. Often when people think their judgment or values are being questioned, they may feel defensive or hostile. They may look for a way to turn the issue back to your faults. Remember that (unless you're not using compassionate, non-judgmental communication) it's not about you; the harsh reaction is often a response to others having to face inconsistencies in their own values and actions. Focus on your goal of helping others and saying "enough hurting." But, if you find you're getting nothing but negative reactions to your encounters, then take time to evaluate your methods and look for ways to improve.
  4. Let go of  the need to change. Focus on the single encounter and doing the most good and least harm. If people sense that you're trying to change them or tell them what to do, they're going to shut down and ignore you. Additionally, remember that you can't control the outcome of your speaking out. You can only strive to inspire, educate, and empower.
  5. Offer positive choices. It's essential when speaking up that you provide positive choices. Many people aren't aware that they have other options. Connect them with resources that eliminate or reduce obstacles. Be their ally, not their opponent.
  6. Gently refute the "It's none of your business" statement. Sometimes people will tell you that what you're speaking up about is "none of your business" or that what they're doing "is a personal choice." You can kindly respond with something like: "Respectfully, it IS my business when I see someone being hurt." or "It ceases to be a personal choice when it causes harm to others." or something similar. Or, you can say "Yes, it is none of my business, but I can see that you're hurting, and I want to help anyway."
  7. Keep trying. As long as you're confident that you're using your best compassionate, non-judgmental communication, keep trying, even when you're met with hostility, defensiveness, or indifference. As Gandhi said “It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
  8. Speak out with a friend. As we know, there can be power in numbers. We're not always with another friend when it's time to speak up, but it can feel a bit less scary when you have a friend along for support. They don't have to say anything; just be there. But, be careful that having a friend along doesn't feel like you're "ganging up" on whomever you're talking with.

 What additional tips do you have to make it easier to speak up anyway? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

~ Marsha

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