“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.”

– Margaret Atwood

Have you ever wanted to say something difficult to your partner and yet you don’t speak up?

For most of us the answer is yes; and, for many people, this is the norm. Not speaking up or voicing our authentic thoughts and feelings in a relationship is one of the most common obstacles to healthy communication and can create a very unbalanced partnership. It can also lead to resentment and disconnection between partners.

So why is it that we don’t just speak our minds? The answer is simply, FEAR.

  • Fear we will hurt the other
  • Fear we will not be heard
  • Fear we can’t effectively put our thoughts and feelings into words

To have a healthy relationship, it is vital for both partners to speak up in a kind way so we will most likely be heard, and in an assertive way where we own our statements and responses.

Here are 3 practical tips that can help people address these fears and find their voices:

1) It is actually NOT “speaking up” that will hurt the other person.

When thoughts and feelings go unspoken and are swept under the rug, you may think you are letting them go, but actually you are repressing them and storing up resentment. At some point even the most non-assertive, quiet person will get to the last straw and eventually explode. It is much healthier to address issues and feelings as they occur and have no “lumps” under the rug that you may trip over.

2) Ask yourself how you can communicate your authentic thoughts and feelings in a way they will most likely be heard.

We usually suggest communication be “in-person,” not over email or text. The entire meaning of the message may be lost when you can’t see body language, have eye contact, and hear your partner’s tone.

Ask your partner when they are in a place to have a talk. You can preface the conversation by stating your fear; e.g., “There’s something difficult I need to talk about, so I want to make sure we are in a place where our conversation can be productive.” Make sure there are no distractions or children around and that you have privacy

3) Think about what you want to say ahead of time and write it down.

When we are emotional it is hard to be logical. You may think you know what you are going to say, but in the emotional moment you may go blank. Writing your thoughts and feelings down before the conversation:

  • Helps you clarify and organize your points,
  • Allows you to create “I” statements, where you own the message, instead of “You” statements, which sound blaming, and
  • Supports you in creating a message that truly communicates what you desire to say.

It will also help you remember your points more clearly — some people even bring their notes to the discussion.

Lastly, we can’t wait to speak up until our fear goes away. It won’t. We need to take it by the hand and be assertive to show ourselves and our fear that it is not as scary as we imagined.

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about the fear of speaking up on our Facebook page.


Bob and Lori are doing Individual, Couples and Marriage Counseling Online.

Call 410-363-2825 or email us now if your relationship is struggling.


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