Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
I fell in love with music at a very young age. My mom told me I could repeat song lyrics when I was three. When I got older, I would sneak into her bedroom and play her record albums. One of my favorites was and still is Simon and Garfunkel Live at Central Park. An iconic song from that album is The Sound of Silence. It was released in 2015 as a haunting cover by the band Disturbed.
Art Garfunkel said this classic and beautiful song is about “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly intentionally, but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”
When we can’t communicate what’s important to us in a relationship, whether personal or professional, we create barriers between ourselves and others. Consequently, we negatively impact our perception of ourselves.
Six Reasons Why We Practice Self-silence
Why do we hold ourselves back from saying what we want and need to say? Or keep quiet about asking for what we need or sharing when we’re sad, angry, or upset? More importantly, Why do we fail to express the things that are important to us?
Here are some reasons why we practice self-silence:
1. Traumatic Events From Our Upbringing
Something from your past (abusive relationships, terrible break-up) makes you silence yourself. I didn’t even realize it, but for many years I had a deep-seated fear that if I spoke up and made someone angry, upset, or disappointed, they’d leave me. This feeling came from my childhood experience. And it was only when I recognized it that I was able to work on overcoming it.
2. We Are Held Back by Gratitude
This one seems counter-intuitive but hear me out. When we were kids, we were repeatedly told, “Don’t be ungrateful.” Certainly, gratitude is a high vibration state we want to cultivate. However, there’s an incomplete version of gratitude that can hold you back.
Sometimes we’re so grateful for everything we feel we don’t deserve more, so we don’t ask. But it’s perfectly okay to want — and ask — for more. So rather than having an “I’m just grateful for these crumbs” mindset, the alternative is, “I’m grateful for all I have, AND I’d like more, please.” This is a mindset of abundance rather than lack.
3. To Coddle Ourselves From Others
We frequently silence ourselves when we think our opinion or request will be received poorly or isn’t something the receiver wants to hear. If you know your conversation will contribute to a person’s growth, yet you choose not to engage, you assume the receiver isn’t capable of handling their feelings.
4. The Fear of Being Disliked (Popularity)
You may hold yourself back from speaking your mind because you want to be liked more than you want to be heard. Paradoxically, we tend to like others who communicate honestly and are skilled at having difficult conversations rather than those who aren’t willing to engage at that level.
If deep down you are afraid of abandonment by others, that often manifests in self-abandonment. Rather than risk being abandoned by someone else, we stay quiet, which is abandoning ourselves. We may believe we don’t deserve to be heard or our concerns are not worth attending to.
6. Fear of Loss
If you self-silence because you’re afraid to lose the relationship or the quality of the relationship will erode, consider that open, honest dialogue strengthens relationships. Without it, you can’t progress the relationship forward, so self-silencing contributes to those things you seek to avoid.
How Does Self-Silencing Show Up?
Self-silencing and suppressing your voice can show up in many ways. Here are just a few. If you resonate with several on this list, consider you may be self-silencing.
- Passive aggressiveness
- Picking fights
- Cryptic communication
- Poor sleep
- Gut issues
- Body pain (headaches / back aches / neck aches / TMJ)
- Nightmares or recurring dreams
How To Speak Up For Yourself
Here are a few ways you can stop self-silencing and start speaking up for yourself:
1. Ask yourself, “If I speak up, what’s the worst and best thing that could happen?”
2. Choose the appropriate time. If emotions are high, delay the conversation. Delaying takes awareness and self-control, but strong emotion can block your ability to communicate what you need to say. And in turn, hinder the receiver’s ability to listen openly.
3. Approach from a place of calm, respect, kindness, and assume the best. Speaking your mind from a place of hurt, anger, assumption, or through the filter of feeling wronged can skew how you deliver the message and also how the receiver hears you.
4. Release attachment to the outcome. Even when you do your best to be calm, thoughtful, kind, and clear, you can’t control how the other person will respond. Some people won’t like it at all. On the other hand, others will appreciate your honesty and ability to have a discussion in service of a solution. Learn to let go of their part of it and stick to expressing yours.
5. Stack the deck in your favor by being in physical proximity. Body language and tone are both important, so having difficult conversations in person is ideal. If face-to-face isn’t possible, the phone is a better option than text or email to enhance clarity.
6. Nobody likes to be told they’re wrong, so use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. People tend to be more open to listening and respond better when you frame up the conversation in context to yourself rather than pointing out what they are (or aren’t) doing.
7. Listen. Your experience isn’t the only one. It is good to state your case and your wants, needs, and requests calmly and assertively. However, remember to listen to the other person’s point of view.
Confrontation doesn’t equal aggression. It’s simply the practice of being calmly assertive, expressing what you want and need—and having a direct, tactful, thoughtful conversation.
The bottom line is if you can advocate for someone else, then with practice, you can learn to advocate for yourself too!
Health and Arȇte,
Monica Ricci spent 20 years as an organizing and productivity consultant, speaker, and trainer. Today she coaches busy professionals and business teams, replacing unproductive habits with powerful ones so they can create the life and business they desire and deserve. Monica enjoys learning, baseball, travel, and high-quality butter.