By Taylor Jevning
Speaking your mind is one of the most efficient ways to get what you want. Being able to communicate your thoughts is a taken-for-granted skill that seems to be hard to develop without conscious thought. This year, my New Year’s resolution was to communicate any strong opinions I have, whether positive or negative. There are a couple reasons for this decision.
It can be terrifying to speak your mind on things that are negatively impacting you. When dealing with issues in romantic relationships, student/teacher relationships, or your boss, the cost of telling the truth can be detrimental. Without getting nit-picky, there are times where people get a gut feeling that something is not right in a certain situation. Whether it be a professor giving an unfair exam, your employer doing something that makes you uncomfortable, or your significant other doing something that bothers you, there is a choice to be made about whether or not to talk about it. While there are some extreme situations where it’s difficult to speak up (working in a new country, living situation), from personal experience, sharing my thoughts has led to many positive results. Since I learned to speak up to my partner and friends, I’ve built stronger relationships with them because they know they can rely on me to tell them the truth even when it is difficult. In speaking to my professors and employers, I’ve noticed the same. It can be difficult to speak up to a person who is in a position of authority of you, but these people “above” you are not mind readers, and generally, if approached in a straightforward manner, these people are in a position to help you make things better. This has led me to having better interpersonal communication, which has led to better relationships, better grades, and a more comfortable work environment. Though I tend not to be a negative person, there are major things that can arise in any type of exchange that cannot be overlooked, even if it would be the easier option. Taking on some personal responsibility for what happens to you shows self respect, because you aren’t willing to accept conditions that are unfair. In return, self-respect and self-confidence lead to getting respect and better treatment from others overall. Due to this, speaking up about negative experience not only has great short-term effects, but net positive good effects in the long run.
Sometimes, there are negative scenarios where speaking up is more costly. Sometimes, standing up for yourself can have negative effects, such as being fired, or ending a romantic relationship. In these cases, I feel like it is incredibly important to weigh the pros and cons: Is being with my current partner worth being disrespected and undervalued? From what I’ve noticed, the answer to this question is almost always no, but if you are living with or have children with this partner, the situation can get more complicated. Or, for example, is being employed by my current employer worth being disrespected and undervalued? Sometimes the answer to this can be no, but sometimes the answer is yes if you cannot easily get another job in the place you currently live. Weighing the pros and cons of a situation can aid you in knowing whether to speak up or not, but often, there are many examples where we allow ourselves to be disrespected because it’s easier to say nothing. I’d rather have basic standards for many of the people in my life than to continue to say nothing and end up in a world that I allow to take advantage of me, which caused me to make this resolution back in January.
When putting any type of negativity in the world, I find it important to even this out with equal positivity, or as close to equal as I can get. While I have taken advantage of a few opportunities to speak against people treating me in a negative manner, I also make it a point to share my positive thoughts. Whenever we think positively of people, it is important to tell them as it encourages them to act positively more often. For example, a particular essay recently assigned by a professor was one of the most interesting assignments I have participated in, and the content of the assignment helped me build a stronger relationship with one of my friends. As soon as I realized I had such a positive experience with this assignment, I emailed my professor and let her know that I found the assignment great. Hopefully, in doing that, I can both immediately improve my professor’s mood as well as have the long-term effect of stressing the importance of other students doing similar assignments in the future. Feedback is so valuable–whether negative or positive–that many companies you use every day, such as Facebook, ask for feedback on their apps so that they can improve their services for everyone. Although there are few times a day where you will be asked for feedback, there are plenty of opportunities to give it, and this feedback has a real impact on those you give it to. Be it a compliment to a friend or an email with your boss, positivity rarely has negative consequences, and it allows people to take your negative feedback more seriously.
These two things–negativity and positivity–go hand in hand when speaking your mind. If you only express positive things, you may be taken advantage of, but if you only speak negatively, people won’t like you. Balancing these two extremes is difficult but necessary if you want to be seen as a reliable, trustworthy person that people respect and want to be around. Your opinions are valid, and without putting them out into the world, you will never be able to affect the world around you. I once had a professor say to me that it does not matter what you’re talking about, if you speak, someone will listen. This stuck with me, but I would amend his statement: If it matters to you, speak about it. You will be heard.