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Do You Speak Up or Suck it Up?

by Kim Ades March 9, 2018

What do you do when you’re faced with an uncomfortable or untenable situation? Do you speak up or stay silent? Have you considered the cost of keeping your mouth shut?

speak up
I find myself in airplanes often, whether it’s to visit family, join an event or speak at one. Recently, I flew to Florida to attend a conference.

On the plane ride there, I was completely absorbed in my work. My head was down and I was laser-focused. In fact, I was so focused that I had tuned everything and everyone out.

Suddenly, I heard a number of loud knocks. It was a woman’s ring banging against the food tray in front of her. “You’re sitting in my lap!” she snapped. I jumped out of work-mode to look around for the source of the commotion.

An older woman wearing a large wedding ring was talking to the man sitting in front of her. Her tray was down and was digging into her belly.

“What do you want me to do?” was the man’s response. “The person in front of me has their seat reclined all the way too!”

The woman was clearly unhappy. The man thought for a moment, then got out of his seat. Each person in front of him for three rows had their seats reclined all the way back.

One at a time, starting with the person at the front, he asked them to move their seats forward. “The woman behind me is complaining that she doesn’t have enough room. Would you mind moving your chair forward?” he asked them.

They all obliged. It was as simple as that.

Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been on a plane with hardly any room in front of me and I didn’t speak up?!

I always told myself, they have the right to recline their seat if they want to.

For whatever reason, I never assumed that I, too, had the right to a comfortable flight.

Many of my coaching clients don’t speak up in uncomfortable situations either. In our conversations, they describe their less-than-ideal circumstances and how they feel like their hands are tied. They say things like, “It’s not my place to say anything” or “I don’t want to be seen as a complainer or “even if I did say something, nothing would change.”

We may not realize that staying silent time and time again affects our psyche. We do it because we believe that being selfless is a kind thing to do. Unfortunately, continuous self-sacrifice often leads to resentment and personal erosion. Each time we hold our tongue, we feel smaller and smaller. It’s the simple act of staying quiet that causes people to feel like they have no control over their own lives.

We often view speaking up as an act of conflict as opposed to an act of problem solving. But speaking up has the power to spark significant change and solve complex problems.

Do you ever keep your mouth shut when you wish that you could pipe up? Do you second-guess yourself and think that your wants and needs are inconvenient, inappropriate or insignificant? Even as executives or leaders, we find ourselves in positions where we stay quiet instead of making a contribution.

If this is something that you struggle with, I urge you to reach out to us. You matter and so does your voice!

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