One of the most prominent (and perhaps most difficult) questions I, and many others I am close with, stumble upon about our days is this: When is it helpful to speak our minds, and when should we save our thoughts to ourselves?
There are usually both good and bad justifications for speaking out or remaining quiet. Hence, how do we figure out which is which? It all boils down to our own energy, which is an aspect we can educate ourselves on recognising.
Integrity signifies a sense of wholeness or being of one piece. For me, the feeling of integrity is one of stillness and calm within. Whenever I am angered by something (integrity is nowhere to be found), I would feel an unsettling energy in my body. My thoughts would immediately be scattered all over my mind as I try to think about what happened and what I want to say back. It is somewhat surprising that not many people recognise that this is not the perfect state (and time) to say something (anything really).
Therefore, I have learned several rules that have helped me navigate this treacherous state of mind, and I hope it will help you too when you are in a similar position.
1. Take The Time To Gather Your Thoughts And Have A Clear Head
Unless you or someone else is in imminent danger, acting based on your first instinct will likely do more harm than good because your energy is so uncoordinated you cannot observe what is really there.
“Sometimes it takes time for a person to gather their thoughts, to process their feelings, and then to let them out.”Astra Niedra
Normally, I appreciate old sayings and proverbs for the wisdom they carry, but there is one that I disagree with: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger”. Frankly, in most cases, the better advice should be: “Sleep on it”. I lost count of the number of times I have gone to bed displeased and in the morning could hardly recall what the fuss was all about.
When your energy is in an entangled mess and revving hot, it is no different than a muddy pool that needs time to settle. Once it is clear again, you can observe if there is still something there that needs to be flushed out.
The ego (your sense of self-esteem), when threatened, will always go on the defensive. Usually, how it defends itself is by overreacting, and overreaction usually contains emotions and thoughts that are baseless. Hence, you would then lash out and verbalise things that should remain silent. Often, this is disguised as an act of self-defence but in fact, what it actually does is inflicting lasting damage to your relationship with yourself and others around you. Maybe this where the phrase “The strongest muscle in your body is your tongue” came from. This is the reason why my second rule of thumb is another aphorism:
2. Least Said, Soonest Mended
You cannot undo the damages you have caused, whether they were done through your actions or words (written or spoken). Our words especially are like magic spells we cast, with the capacity to attract good and bad consequences. Hence, be especially careful rather than taking a risk or making a mistake.
Again, when emotions run high, the ego automatically switches on a feature called “over-explain”. There are many explanations for this:
- Maybe you want to present how much you were hurt by what the other person said or did.
- Maybe you want to demand an apology or a confession that you were right.
- Maybe you are exploiting an opportunity in the current situation to bring up a grudge against that person that you have been keeping for a long time.
“The energy you’ll expend focusing on someone else’s life is better spent working on your own. Just be your own idol.”Sophia Amoruso
The core takeaway here — again — is to focus on your own energy. Often, we start a conversation with a sense of calmness and bring nothing but well intentions before everything starts to crumble.
When you are tensing up, breathing faster than usual or raising your voice, take a step back and stop whatever you are doing. This is a difficult manoeuvre to perform because it is very tempting to keep going. Sometimes, you can restore peace and regain your composure by simply slowing your speech, taking a couple of deep breaths and reconfiguring your attention so that the other person sees your approach as soft and friendly.
Speak less than you believe you should. This is particularly beneficial when handling a narcissist, who will attempt to use your words against you or bring the feelings out of you to prove their point. Do not fall for that trick. You do not need to prove anything. If they believe that 1+1 =3, tell them politely that they are right and walk away. From my point of view, narcissists are no different from those who like to act rich but, in fact, are financially broke.
Speaking of walk away, if you have to do so, refrain from doing it as a punishment, rejection or manipulation of the other person. Just admit that you are having difficulty controlling your energy and will return when you regain control of your emotions and thoughts. This is not to say that you are incapable of expressing strong feelings when required. Ironically, you will be far more effective at delivering a more powerful message when you have a clear mind.
So let’s recalibrate for a second: What does it feel like your energy is “pure”? Keep in mind: We termed this a feeling of integrity or wholeness. It is a feeling of staying connected with our truth. Because our ego likes troubles, my third piece of advice on how to speak up is:
3. Check Your Baggage At The Door
I had to deploy this rule many years ago when I confronted my sister about her new significant other. I contemplated whether I should speak my mind, especially because I feared that it could be my ego playing mental tricks with me. It is not hard to trick yourself that you are acting in an unselfish way when the truth is that you want to meet your needs and desires.
“In life, when the baggage gets too heavy, you have to put it down.”Nikki Sixx
Realistically speaking, these hidden intentions (and our underlying energy) never go on mute. As human beings, we are naturally wired to read body languages, especially if we know each other for a long period of time. So, people can pick up on them easily, consciously or unconsciously, and they only further loosen the validity of your arguments and force others to activate their defensive mechanisms.
Despite that, when we speak with a clear and grounded on firm principles, that energy is interpreted well. It enables the other person to listen with an open heart, even if the messages are sensitive and uncomfortable to digest. For me, this was an important distinction. When I first believed about talking with my sister, my goal was to persuade her to part ways with her guy.
As I sat on the situation for a moment, it turned out that she truly had every right to her own opinions and beliefs and that she may have justifiable grounds for sustaining the relationship. When I eventually spoke with her, I recognised that and did not force her to surrender to my persuasive efforts. I ended the conversation by openly disclosing to her my fears and observations.
However, what made me believe that I should voice out in the beginning? That leads me to my last piece of advice:
4. Listen To Your Gut Feeling
As effortless as it is to find trouble and be in one by speaking up when we should not, it is equally irresistible to suppress our instincts to say something if we believe it will be pointless to do so. Again, this boils down to energy too.
At times, when we choose to sit out and wait, our energy cleanses itself, and the situation remedies itself too. When we remain upset about a particular situation, it is a good time to inspect our own baggage. We have to thoroughly and sincerely evaluate how much of our upset feelings are driven by our own issues and address them first. If you have performed this faithfully and you are still not sitting pretty, that is the moment you are looking for to speak up.
“Never apologise for trusting your intuition — your brain can play tricks, your heart can blind, but your gut is always right.”Rachel Wolchin
In my sister’s case, on top of my personal sadness, I genuinely sensed that she was getting in over her head with a narcissistic boyfriend. This placed me in a bind because every time she would speak to me about him, I cannot help but feel inauthentic and unsettled for keeping my true feelings under wraps.
After we talked, my energy quandary was resolved, even though the situation remained unchanged. She decided to keep him in her life but assured me that she would be careful and build a strong relationship with him patiently. I no longer had to keep my feelings secret, but I also foregone attempting to alter her behaviour and addressed my own problems about the situation instead.
Final 2¢: Where To From Here?
Learning how to comprehend and keep an eye on my own energetic integrity has benefited me significantly in all aspects of life, beyond just communication (although that is quite vital as well!).
Deliberating whether or not to speak and what to convey when we do, continues to be an issue daily, and energy is the fundamental ingredient to communication that truly achieves what we desire it to achieve, with the least damage potential.