On Speaking Up

Aaron MGDR
3 min readApr 11, 2021
Photo by Carlos Arthur M.R on Unsplash

Recently I’ve been getting feedback that I always say what’s on my mind and ask for what I need. And while if you had asked me I would have said, “No I only say about 10% of what is on my mind”, if I observe myself and others then yes I do speak up maybe more than most.

This was not always the case and is a skill I cultivated.

Internally most of my thoughts feel edgy even dangerous. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant because it still has me pause and in the past had me be silent.

I don’t speak up because I’m comfortable doing so, I do it because i’ve learnt cost to my own psyche in not doing so is greater.

Photo by Piermanuele Sberni

That there is an internal cost to being mute was something I didn’t always understand. Instead I would stay silent and what had been clear, precises points would dull and only a vague now subconscious feeling of something being off would persist mix with my own personal self doubt and fester until the next time something similar came up and it would all rush out feeling quite intense. Then i’d either be even less able to articulate my thoughts.

The trick I learned was to bring greater awareness to what that intensity felt like in my body without assigning value to it: “Hot, sharp, dense pulling down in my stomach.” and then notice when i felt that same feeling in smaller amounts.

So withholding led to a dulling of my mind. While Being completely 100% unfiltered isn’t the solution, there was a huge benefit in practicing it for a while, especially within the context of a group of people who are also practicing being 100% unfiltered. The benefit was to untrain my mind from overly editing. The next step was learning to calibrate and speak with discernment.

Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be in connection with this person?

The thing about being unfiltered is that left unchecked and without deep personal work and self integration it’s just egos and insecurities triggering each other. That’s not relating, but it may play the part of it in your life. The most valuable thing I have ever learnt was how to separate out out the part of me that was hurt vs the part of me that was the protector, vs the part of me that that was was arrogant etc vs the part of me that had something genuinely constructive or maybe a better word is “true” to say. None of this is easy. Often when I think i have it pride slips back in. And only by learning greater humbleness and precision do i become better at this.

Lastly and in a since this is part of discernment, is this the time and place to say the thing which will have it be received as best it can be? I don’t believe in hard rules on this, yet I do know that venue matters. Is my attention out on the person i want to receive this. Are they open? Is my place here to listen? Of course there are vastly different circumstances we could be in: friends chatting, casual chat at work, group meeting at work, a friend confiding. The context of these is the starting point for knowing how to respond yet even within them there is great variation.

For instance I was chatting with my friend last night about his relationship. And while there was a point where I wanted to say oh just do x. I knew that me saying that would have been not well received by him and so instead I listened and reflected and at the end asked if I could share one thing which actually ended up being a more accurate verbalization of the underlying thing rather than the edict X would have been.

In summary

  1. What’s the cost of not speaking?
  2. What is the precise thing I want to say?
  3. Is this the most effective place and time for it to be received?