Ever said something that came out wrong? Me neither. 

Just kidding. These kinds of experiences happen to all of us from time to time. 

 Whether you are 

-resolving a conflict

-offering an opinion

-apologizing

-explaining your side of the story

– or just ordering a pizza

Fear=Prison of silence

Chances are something you say could come out wrong one of these days. Sometimes the fear of saying the wrong thing, or even of saying the right thing and have that ‘right’ thing be misinterpreted is enough to keep us muzzled. This is especially true if you have experienced being shamed for the way you said something in the past. If you are someone who is repeatedly called out for putting your foot in your mouth regardless of your intentions, it makes sense that the thought of embarrassment, of being perceived as ‘awkward’ at best and ‘toxic’ at worst, can keep you in a sort of prison of silence. 

My journey

I feel your pain. My own willingness to speak up for myself was hard-won. When my family moved from Ukraine to Canada, my knowledge of English was rudimentary. Though I had studied the language with a tutor, my English book smarts did not translate into street smarts. Needless to say, I had a lot of trouble communicating and making friends. I was so nervous about saying the wrong thing that I even remember writing out a script that I used for calling up potential new English speaking friends and inviting them to go rollerblading (hey it was the 90s). The dread I felt communicating with my peers was no match for how my parents felt trying to navigate a whole new environment without a strong grasp of the English language. The presence of a language barrier in my life sparked my curiosity in communication as a subject. 

I eventually realized that even when people speak the same language, there is so much potential for misunderstanding. Miscommunication is just a part of life-not a personal flaw. 

 The point is not to fear making mistakes but to embrace ourselves despite them.

Embracing your communication blunders is a necessary part of accepting yourself. It is only when you accept yourself that you can make full use of your freedom to change, improve, and grow. So how can you practice self-acceptance when you are in an awkward moment? Resist the urge to judge yourself, label yourself as incompetent, and beat yourself up- instead send yourself the kind of kindness and compassion that you would send a good friend in such a moment. Imagine you are talking to a close friend, someone you love and admire, and they are telling you the story of what is happening to you at this moment. How would you react? Would you throw your friend under the bus? Would you say something sarcastic? Probably not. Chances are you would probably remind them that everyone makes mistakes and that your mistakes do not define you- your good qualities do. You would probably remind them that the moment will pass and that the embossment, shame, anger, etc. will fade away sooner than they anticipate. This practice of talking to yourself in an encouraging manner is called ‘positive self-talk” and it is a great tool to get through most anything difficult. 

Final word

Continuing to self censor out of fear of judgment, ridicule, embarrassment or shame keeps you from saying anything at all. If you stay silent, not only will you be depriving the world of all the great things you have to offer- among them your opinions, perspective and talents- but you will deprive yourself of the kinds of affirming, deep, connections that you crave. Therefore, make peace with the fact that sometimes, the things you say may not come out right. Practice positive self talk- that is talking to yourself like your own greatest cheerleader. 

If you want some feedback on your communication style, be sure to reach out and book a session.

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