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Speak Up! Alternatives to Remaining Silent

We all get angry. It’s a normal, useful, healthy emotion. It’s not our anger that gets us in trouble. It’s the way in which we express, or suppress, it that that exacerbates the situation.

The majority of people I’ve met believe that there are only two ways of handling anger: the first is with an aggressive or explosive response; the second to remain silent. Both are fear-based and carry hefty consequences. Growing up, I remember hearing adults say, “Nice people don’t get angry.” Wanting to be good and have the approval of others, I learned early-on not to express my true feelings. This put me at a huge disadvantage, particularly as I got older. Unable to say what was on my mind, my anger often built up to the point where I was no longer able to contain it and sadly, I directed it at the ones least able to defend themselves against me. In my early thirties, I developed an eating disorder (more accurately, a feelings disorder) as a method of dealing with years of pent up emotions. It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I realize two things: first, that everyone has a God-given right to accurately express how they feel; and second, how to do so – and with authority.

Some of the more common reasons for not speaking up are: “I don’t want to make the other person angry, hurt their feelings or get them upset; I’m afraid of how they may react to what I say or what they may think about me; what if I make matters worse but saying how I feel? I’m afraid that if I say something it’ll come out wrong.” Each of these concerns reveals a lack of confidence and self-esteem. Under certain conditions it may be prudent to remain silent in the moment. For example, if a police officer pulls you over for a broken tail light when you’re late for work.
Both aggressive responses or passive silence rarely prove beneficial in the long run. Here are some examples of assertive, confident responses and why they work:

Ex:. # 1: Your neighbor leaves their dog unattended outside all day every day. As canines often do, the dog barks incessantly. During the summer months your windows are open and the sound filters throughout your entire house, providing little respite other than a closet at the far end of the house. “What the (blank) is wrong with people? They should know that a barking dog is annoying to anyone who isn’t deaf!” But manners dictate a more thoughtful conversation as you venture up the sidewalk to their front door. “Hi, Joan. Your dog is beautiful. What breed is it? I can see how much you love him – he certainly has a nice big yard to run around in. I’m not sure if you’re aware but he barks most of the time he’s outdoors. Being in such close proximity I can hear his barking all day. After awhile it’s hard for me to deal with. Is there something you can do to help with this situation? I’d really appreciate it.”
In this scenario, you begin with a general statement of good will acknowledging her beloved canine. You continue with a sincere comment about the loving care she provides for him before inquiring as to whether or not she’s aware that there is a problem. At that point, you seek her assistance in rectifying this issue and express your gratitude in advance.

Ex. #2: You post on a social media site only to have someone comment in a rude and disrespectful manner. Your first response is to call them a derogatory name and tell them to put their opinions where the sun don’t shine. But upon further consideration, you choose the following response: “While I certainly don’t expect that everyone agree with my position on this matter I am fine with others posting opposing points of view. What I do take exception to are remarks that are offensive and judgmental. I do not find them productive and in the future ask that you refrain from making such statements. Thank you.”
In this circumstance, you’ve respectfully acknowledge their opposing viewpoint followed by an objection to an offensive comment. You’ve addressed the issue rather than attack the individual. You conclude with a firm request. In every way, your response reflected confidence, authority, and respect.

Aggressive responses, such as yelling, screaming, threatening, slamming doors and such show a blatant lack of respect for the other party. Based on a need to control the circumstances, they fail to take into consideration the other party’s knowledge of the situation, feelings, needs, or rights.
Remaining silent not only cheats you but robs the other party of knowing how you feel, thereby possibly continuing the unacceptable behavior and prolonging an uncomfortable situation.

By all means, if you are upset rant – in your head, in front of a mirror or to a safe third party. Get if off your chest. Then, when you have calmed down, think about what you need to say and the most effective way to do so. Write a script. Examine the pros and cons of each statement. Edit as needed. Rehearse it until you feel comfortable with it. Then approach the individual you need to speak with and say what’s on your mind. In essence:
1. State how you feel (angry, upset, frustrated, etc).
2. Make an opinion-based or fact-based statement about the behavior of the other party. Address the issue, do not attack the individual.
3. Continue with an expectation of further interactions, the manner in which you expect the other party to treat you.
4. If necessary, and only when appropriate with the individual or for the situation, impose fair and reasonable boundaries.
5. Always be truthful, clear, respectful, concise, confident, and unwavering.

Silence may be golden but sometimes it’s only gold-plated. And once the veneer wears away, what’s revealed can be unsightly, fermented anger. And that can be far more damaging to everyone in the long run. So speak up. Use what God gave you. It is your right.

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6 Steps to Rebuilding a Broken Trust

Have you ever disappointed someone or broken a promise? Was the incident serious enough to ultimately compromise the trust between you? We all have been untrustworthy at some point. That doesn’t mean that we’re bad or selfish. Sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, we let people down. We give them information believing it to be true only to discover it lacked integrity. “You lied to me! I’ll never trust you again!”

There are some who will deliberately mislead others. While they reassure you they are trustworthy their actions contradict their words. Politicians are notorious for this. They make campaign promises knowing full well they will not follow through once elected.
We’ve also been deceived by those we believed in. “I promise if you tell me about your brother-in-law’s affair I won’t say a word to anyone. You can trust me.” “I promise to love and honor you through good times and bad all the days of our lives.” (That one hits home for a lot of us doesn’t it?) Or perhaps a coworker steals your idea and receives company recognition rightly belonging to you. Your underage child assures you that there will be no alcohol at Saturday’s party then stumbles home at 2 am reeking of beer. A minor infraction (“I know I promised to be at your retirement dinner but I totally forgot it was this weekend.”) may be easily overlooked. One of a more serious nature (“I can’t pay back the money you loaned me to buy a new car.”) might require more than a simple “Opps, sorry!” to move beyond. A damaged trust can completely destroy an important relationship.

There is a strong connection between trust and anger. My definition of fear is “a lack of trust”. We are leery of those we find unreliable. “I have to watch what I say around Uncle Joe. He can get nasty and volatile.” We may feel as though we are walking on eggshells around those we are suspect of. This anxiety (a mild form of fear – one of the three root causes of anger) can easily convert to anger as a means of self-protection.

Some believe that once broken a trust can never be rebuilt. I’m not one of those people. I’ve personally regained my faith in someone who deeply deceived me and restored a wonderful relationship with him that continues today. I’ve also witnessed couples rebuild their fractured marriages after a painful infidelity. But unlike respect, trust must be earned. Like many others I’ve learned the hard way that not all people are deserving of trust. But there are specific steps one can take to restore a broken relationship:

1. Consider the true nature and moral values of the offending party. Was this an isolated incident or a habitual pattern of behavior? Even the most astute people sometimes act imprudently.
2. Has the offending party acknowledged their mistake? Awareness is the first key necessary for any restoration to occur.
3. Have they offered a sincere apology and displayed a willingness to make amends or restitution? Saying “I’m sorry” is only the first phase. One needs to take the necessary steps to rectify the offense.
4. Does the individual fully understand the underlying issues that precluded their actions? By doing so, they are better equipped to prevent a reoccurrence.
5. Have they been willing to see the situation through your eyes? Do they fully understand the depth and scope of how this has affected you? Do they “get it”? Empathy and compassion lessens the risk of a reoccurrence.
6. Have they made the necessary changes and proven themselves to be consistent? Words are cheap; actions reveal. Only through repeated uniform acts can one prove they are reliable and worthy of your trust.

If all of the above components are present then individuals can move beyond the unfortunate incident and ultimately repair and rebuild the relationship. Like a broken bone: the area of the fracture, once healed, is stronger than that which has always remained intact.

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Dealing With Insults Effectively

My husband is brutal: he teases and torments me unmercifully. But I’m just as bad. From the moment we wake up until we crawl exhausted into bed at the end of the day, we are constantly harassing one another. In fact, the first words out of his mouth as he opens his eyes at 5 am are “Are you annoying me yet?” To which I respond, “I can begin whenever you want.” Or perhaps I’m feeling more considerate at that moment: “I’m trying really hard not to but it’s not working.” If, later in the day, he asks why I’m being so irritating I simply reply, “Because you make it so easy for me!” Then we both have a good laugh. It doesn’t matter how many times we repeat this exact scenario, we still find it hilarious. We know each others funny bones intimately and are well aware of what each person is comfortable with in terms of teasing as well as what crosses the line. I can tell simply by his body language if I’ve gone to far. It may be that I’ve touched upon something sensitive or perhaps he’s simply not in the playful zone at that moment. Either way, I immediately acknowledge my lack of sensitivity and apologize. He, like each of us, decides what is and isn’t amusing to him or when something, once taken in jest, has lost its lighthearted component.

But how can one know if a cutting remark is playful banter or a biting insult? There are a few key elements that distinguish the two. To insult is “to treat with indignity or contempt; to injure or offend; rude” – powerful words all indicative of disrespect with an attempt to harm. Good natured, witty, and joking are words used to define banter, quite a contrast from a verbal slur. In addition to one’s choice of words, intent is critical in determining whether a comment is impudent or witty. Your best friend may refer to you as crazy. Insult or banter? If that term suggests that you are mentally imbalanced and possibly dangerous you would probably take offense. However, if she was referring to your unpredictable, free-spirited, and fun-filled behavior you may very well delight in her assessment.

Prior to engaging in playful banter, consider the following:
o Know person’s level and style of humor before making any remarks.
o Pay careful attention to your motive: is it playful, light-hearted; intended to make the other person laugh?
o Avoid sensitive topics or anything that may be perceived as offensive or impolite.
o Be certain the individual is in a jovial mood.
o Check your sarcasm at the door. Sarcasm is not humor – it is passive/aggressive anger.

The following characterize insulting behavior:
o You seek to get reaction out of other party, to exert power and control over their feelings and actions; symptomatic of bullying behavior.
o Your comments are embarrassing, humiliating, hurting or causing discomfort to the intended party.
o Your comments are unkind, disrespectful, negative, and serve no productive purpose.

If in fact, you are subjected to derogatory statements, take positive action:
o First and foremost, seek to understand why their comments bother you. This experience can truly be an enlightening moment if you allow it to be. Ask yourself, “What within me needs to heal?”
o Speak up, be assertive. Inform the other person that you do not care for what they are saying to or about you. Set and enforce firm and reasonable boundaries.
o Remove yourself from the individual or situation. Re evaluate if it is in your best interest to continue having a relationship with them and if so, to what extent.
o Remember, their comments are not reflective of you but rather are a portal to their issues. Forgive them for their insensitive remarks.

Conversation needn’t be stuffy or restricted. One can speak openly and honestly to others even concerning sensitive issues. But when words hurt, we need to take a step back, re examine ourselves, consider the motives behind such statements, and choose how we interpret and respond to them. Words can fill our souls with joy and laughter or rip our hearts to pieces. So choose them wisely for once spoken they can never be retracted. And the effects can be long-lasting.

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