Why you shouldn’t speak up


For years I’ve been telling women in particular about the importance of finding their voices and having the courage to speak up.  How we need to have the courage to confront, name what’s wrong and say how we feel because doing so  is an act of leadership which will pave the way for others who don’t feel the same courage at the time.

Of course, as we all do, I teach what I most need to learn and recently I spoke up about something I usually prefer to leave unchallenged.  Frankly I avoided this conversation because I didn’t feel like dealing with the backlash raising it would unleash.

Well as I expected, it unleashed some anger and bile and it made me remember all the reasons not to speak up.

  1. There will be people who will shout you down and make you feel unworthy, uneducated, ill-informed and silly
  2. You might be rejected by people who have more money, more influence and louder voices
  3. In some communities speaking up might even put your safety and life in danger.
  4. It is easier to keep quiet
  5. It can be scary to speak up
  6. You might embarrass your children
  7. You might upset your parents
  8. You might get unfollowed or unfriended

That’s it for now but I’m sure, if pressed I could come up with a few more.

So with all of these reasons not to speak up, why should we continue to do so?

Because as Anais Nin says “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Finding our voice and using it represents a life force. When we choose to ignore it we die a little inside. Speaking up celebrates life and our responsibility to make the world as we see it a little better. And even though that’s only one reason it’s the very best one I’ve got.

6 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t speak up

    • what a powerful and interesting point you raise Di. My strategy is usually to put some distance between the incident and my response and find my “centre” before I speak up. This could be a few minutes or a few days. Or less if it’s an issue I’ve had time to grapple with before as is often the case. When I do this, I find that I am able to respond with authenticity but also in a way which is appropriate for me. I think there’s an important difference between having the courage to speak up and blurting out in anger. That being said there are times when anger is appropriate too. it’s all about context and being aware of what is both authentic and appropriate for a certain context. That’s my take on it!

  1. Very true, and that’s exactly why we need to speak up. Too much pressure is brought to bear to prevent those who have important things to say from saying them. The trick is not so much to say what needs to be said, but to say it in a way that it can be heard.

    One great method is to lead others on to see your point of view and say it for you, rather than trying to debate with or prove your point to them.

    • thank you Rabbi – I love that quote “The trick is not so much to say what needs to be said, but to say it in a way that it can be heard”. That I guess is the difference between speaking up for a purpose rather than blurting out simply for a platform…

  2. Hi Debby – I’ve been dealing with a particularly challenging set of circumstances in which I feel that there is likely to be a distinct downside to insisting on speaking up when what I am witnessing is simply not in synch with the values that are professed by the organisation involved…….There is a temptation to join the rest of the disenchanted and “go underground” with my deep sense of betrayal and mistrust, however alien that is to my usually outspoken nature.

    Then last night I happened to come across a really interesting article in the New Yorker written by Malcolm Gladwell about Albert O Hirschman – a rather fascinating and influential economist who passed away last year (Google him!) – Gladwell quoted from Hirschman’s most famous work, called “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” in which “Exit” refers to voting with your feet ie taking your business / service elsewhere and “Voice” is staying put and speaking up, choosing to fight for reform from within. Hirschman made the point very clearly that in many many cases “exit” fails to send a useful message, and that business, society and other institutions would be well advised to attend to dissent rather than cavalierly suggesting the dissenters remove themselves. He cites the example of the exodus of children of affluent parents from public schools to private institutions……..and the consequent siphoning off of the kind of parents who would otherwise have agitated / organised / lobbied more strongly for reform. An example with which we can certainly identify in this country!

    I loved this quote in particular and intend having it in mind as my battle cry in my next encounter with the Powers That Be : “Those who hold power in the lazy monopoly may actually have an interest in creating some limited opportunities for exit on the part of those whose voices might be uncomfortable.” I intend to go down fighting against lazy monopolies!!!!

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