The Fears That Prevent Us from Speaking Up








Do you value being seen and heard?




Do you want to have truly successful relationships?




Do you want to make an impact on others?




Then speak up!




Of course, for some people, that’s easier said than done. You might prefer to train wild lions than tell another person what’s really on your mind. But it is possible to develop an assertiveness that connects your head and heart.  You can have the type of courage that clears the way for honest, empowered living—without being rude to others or becoming a doormat.




“We all need to learn to dance in rhythm to the beat of our own soul,” writes Kelly Bryson in his book, Don’t Be Nice, Be Real: Balancing Passion for Self with Compassion for Others.




If you stay mum when you would be better off speaking your mind can happen for a variety of reasons: 





  Fear of being rejected. Any time disclose your thoughts, you become vulnerable. Being vulnerable can increase the risks of getting rejected.  Communications skills, such as those taught in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) or Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (PNDC), teach how to combine vulnerability with strength and compassion for more powerful connections.




  Fear of what you would tell yourself, if you were rejected. If you speak up and tell your officemate how much you would like to go out with her, you definitely risk rejection. But if you are rejected, does that really mean you’re unlovable? Destined to a life alone? Or is that just a story?  What stories do you tell yourself to avoid being rejected?




 Fear that you will get hurt. Related to this is the belief that it is better to please others, even at your own expense. As Bryson points out, being Mr. Nice Guy or Gal is actually a form of abuse to you and others, and far from a fully lived life.  Pleasing others all of the time, puts you in a position of becoming a doormat.  When you constantly try to please others, you diminish your contributions to the world and rob other of the chance to hear your authentic voice.








 Fear that you are “rocking the boat,” or upsetting the status quo. The writer Muriel Rukeyser spoke to this fear in her memorable quote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”




  Fear that you have nothing worth saying. Years of poor self-image can lead to this.




  Fear that you will ignite a conflict. If you have an abusive or volatile family history, you may have learned to keep quiet or be invisible to avoid confrontation. By constantly suppressing power feelings can be counterintuitive and lead to frustration and possibly aggressive or abusive behavior. As Rollo May writes in his book, Power and Innocence, feeling powerless is the precursor to violence.




It is important to distinguish between being assertive and being aggressive. Aggression trespasses on another’s boundaries without regard for feelings. Assertiveness, on the other hand, communicates feelings, thoughts and needs clearly and directly. When you speak up, you have the opportunity to help others understand what you need. 



Speaking up after years of zipping your lips may not be easy. Just take baby steps at first. You can sign up for workshops, consult with a counselor, or join an assertiveness support group. You can also practice speaking up in nonthreatening or “low stakes” conversations.  While it may seem challenging at first, the payoff can be tremendous.  You will have more effective relationships, genuine intimacy, and an increased feeling of self-respect and empowerment.



Are you a highly motivated leader but struggle navigating the corporate environment? Do you wish you could lead with authenticity and more confidence?  Would you like to break through to the next level? Go to and get your FREE Audio CD:  “Get Recognized, Valued and Promoted at Work”.



Angela Joyner, Leadership Expert, Coach and National Speaker, is founder of The Wonder Loft, LLC, a coaching practice focused on helping you navigate the corporate environment, lead with confidence and get promoted at work. To get your F.R.E.E. Audio CD by mail and receive her weekly leadership & success mindset articles on how to break through to the next level, visit


About Angela



Angela Joyner is a leadership expert, coach and national speaker.  She founded The Wonder Loft, LLC coaching practice for women.  Angela is devoted to teaching women around the world how to authentically navigate the corporate environment, lead with confidence and get promoted at work. Through private coaching, workshops, and signature talks, Angela shows women (and a few good men) how to create a powerful leadership brand and an abundant life they love. 


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