When you meet people for the first time, do you assume they know more than you?
Assume that what you say would be irrelevant or they’d think it was silly, so you stay quiet ?
(and then give yourself a hard time later because of what you could have said, should have said)
This reminds me of a powerful experience I had a few years ago.
I was on an advanced coach training course with a group of around 10 people. We were looking at an image which was a trick – in the same image was an old woman, and also a young woman depending on how you looked at it.
Everyone except one person in the group had ‘got it’ i.e. seen both images, and the others were trying to explain to this one person how to ‘see’ the young woman in the image.
I listened patiently while everyone spoke their suggestions, but this person still didn’t ‘get it’.
I stayed quiet because I thought “Well there’s nothing new I could contribute”
As I watched this person get more and more frustrated (and no-one else seemed to be helping) I decided to pluck up the courage and just speak my suggestion.
So I said, ‘She’s looking away’
That’s all I said, three little words, and instantly this woman said ‘Ah, yes, I see it now, thanks!’
And everyone else was relieved that we could now move on to something else, and that was the end of that.
Except it wasn’t the end for me.
For me that whole event was a HUGE deal … it hit me like a lightening bolt !
There I was sitting on the answer that could (potentially) end this person’s confusion.
I had always assumed that nothing I said would be useful, and other people would surely have all the good answers, yet now it hit me smack in the face that actually sometimes other people don’t have all the answers, and that the way I describe something could (and did) make all the difference to one person.
It was only a small thing, but it had huge implications for me.
The glaring truth hit me …
Yes, I CAN make a difference, just by speaking up, and being myself and sharing what I know.
This awareness brought me to tears and made me realise that I have a duty to speak up and contribute.
And so it is with you.
Your presence and your words are deeply valuable
And you cannot know for sure when, where or for whom that might be….
It still sometimes takes me great courage to speak up, and I’ve learned that lots of little steps build up to a huge distance travelled.
How can you gather the courage to speak up ?
1) Take the time to acknowledge your feelings
Whenever we feel something that’s not pleasant, we tend to try and get away from it as quickly as possible, and forget it ever happened. Take the time to stay with your feelings, and acknowledge them for what they are – you’ll then be in a better position to be able to do something about them.
This is hard to do in real time, (when it’s actually happening), so practise first in a safe way…
Bring to mind a situation that’s happened recently where you met new people and felt uncomfortable. As you re-live that situation in your mind, check in with your body and remember what you felt physically and emotionally.
For example, you might have felt a sinking feeling in your stomach, or butterflies, sweaty palms, dry throat. Emotionally you might have felt fear, vulnerability, or that you were being judged.
Whatever it was that you felt, allow yourself to be with it in this safe space.
2) Listen carefully to your mind chatter
There might be familiar words or phrases that will come into your head (your inner dialogue, or mind chatter) that can add to your stress if they go un-checked.
For example, you might be telling yourself “they’ll think I’m stupid, I don’t understand what they’re talking about, I don’t have anything to contribute. They can see I’m scared and they’re laughing at me.”
3) Acknowledge those words with love and understanding
Imagine those words are being spoken by a small child, and your adult self is there to comfort and soothe and empathise with her.
Acknowledge her fears, and tell her it’s ok, that she is still loved and valued, and she is still being looked after.
Often in our haste to get away from our discomfort, we abandon our inner child and that can only escalate the feelings. By giving our inner child soothing words of comfort, we take away some of the rawness of that pain, and help her to see it’s not her fault, and she doesn’t have to deal with this all by herself.
4) Remember a time when you received appreciation for something you said or did.
Bring to mind a situation where your presence, your words brought comfort or resolution to someone. This could be as simple as smiling at someone in the street, or saying hello, doing a good job at work and being praised for that, or feeling the love from a parent, child or pet.
The memory, and the physical and emotional feelings surrounding a positive life event, can bring you to a place of knowing that it’s not all bad – there are ways that you contribute and are valued, that you might not remember, unless you consciously choose to.
Repeat this every day, so you have an ever expanding collection of positive experiences to draw on.
5) Rinse and repeat!
Make it a regular practice that you acknowledge your inner child and comfort her, for example at the end of each day, and take extra time with her after a stressful event.
In this way you’ll build up her resilience, and she’ll know that she’s not alone, and she is loved and valued.
You’ll still have stressful events, times when you feel awkward, but you’re building a muscle here, and you’re proving to yourself that your presence and your words are deeply valuable.
Eventually, you’ll have such a close relationship with your inner child, that you’ll be able to soothe her in ‘real time’, and give her the positive comforting words she needs.
This will enable you to feel more comfortable meeting new people, and just like I did, speaking up for just one person, may make all the difference to them (and to you)!
Over To You:
I’d love to hear how this lands for you – please leave me a comment in the box below!
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