Hold your tongue

Is this phrase familiar? For some of us it’s a firm term, maybe from a strict moment from your parents that might bring back memories of being too outspoken as a child. Unfortunately, innocuous as this phrase may seem on the surface, it can go deep into a young vulnerable child’s psyche and leave them with the feeling that when they speak up, talk their truth, it’s not ok. Later in life this can have a negative knock-on effect.

How many times have you felt like you want to speak up but feel you can’t. If you feel you can’t there can be some very unsettling energies that you then have to carry in relation to this.
One important consideration to hold with this is that it’s always ok to talk, to communicate. It’s always ok to express how you feel about something. There are sometimes more appropriate ways of doing this, including more fortuitous times. Careful planning, in terms of what is said, and the impact it may have on others, can be very helpful in relation to how it’s heard and received. Here are some simple strategies to consider when you feel that unsettling feeling of needing to hold your tongue.

1. Firstly what exactly do you need to communicate now? Look at this in terms of your needs and feelings and allow yourself to take these needs and feelings you have seriously. Try sitting down and imagining what you would say to someone if you were able to have your voice. It may help to practice this on your own or with someone who is happy to roleplay with you.

2. If after going through what you need to say, it still feels important to you, consider why you may be holding your tongue?

  • Might it be because you are concerned that others will see you as being too outspoken or raising something that they may not wish to look at?
  • Or is it because you genuinely feel it will not help the situation now or in the future?

3. After pondering number 2 try to step back and see what potential difference your voice could make, even if not all others embrace your communication. We cannot always say what others want to hear but sometimes we need to say what others don’t want to hear to make a positive difference and bring some needed change.

4. Try to imagine a specific time in the future after you have said what you feel you need to say. What will the consequences be in relation to everyone, but very much including yourself too.

5. If after this you feel that it would help to air what you are feeling then choose a good way and time to communicate what needs to be said. It could be requesting a time to meet in private and outlining that you have something important to talk about. It may be that you decide it could help you to have someone else with you to support you (there are professional advocates and mediators who can help you with this). If meeting does not seem possible then try writing it in a letter.

A consideration, in relation to the above, is that it's important that it's you that decides whether or not you should hold your tongue or not. We all have the right to speak and we have the right to choose how we do it. With this we also, importantly, have the responsibility for what we say. If we feel we can’t talk because we feel obliged to keep quiet because others, maybe who feel more important and powerful than us, wish us to be silent then it can be disempowering. As we have had no choice to act responsibly. Historically in some cultures, the practice of shunning and ostracising has been practiced. Today research has discovered that this can have a profound long-term negative psychological impact on an individual. In the long term, this can damage our sense of self-worth and overall self-esteem. We grow up to be adults with a voice and a right to be heard and take responsibility in life. Although it’s not always easy to bring up some conversations with some people, it is often healthy and important to find a safe way speak up anyway, even just to avoid disempowering silences. By giving ourselves permission to talk and allowing ourselves to choose how we might best do this, and take responsibility for our part within this, we empower and validate ourselves and that can be an extremely emotionally healthy position to be in.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton, East Sussex, BN1
Written by Penny Wright, Registered MBACP
Brighton, East Sussex, BN1

My name is Penny. I am an integrative counsellor (registered MBACP) with a friendly and gentle manner. I can draw upon a wide range of therapeutic tools as an integrative counsellor. This can help you with the issues you wish to work through in counselling in a way that truly is geared to your very personal needs.

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