Learn To Speak Up
A few years ago, I was given a choice: speak up or keep my mouth closed. My colleagues and I were putting on a concert for our community. There was this man who always came to these events, Hector—he didn’t always smell the nicest, nor was he an intellectual. He had autism.
The event we had put on was coming to close; we told everyone to get into groups of two’s and three’s to have a discussion. I was occupied on stage with some things that were needed so I couldn’t go down and join the talks.
Some of my teammates, however, were able to join the conversations. The goal was to get the community together through music, topics, and interactions. We were to be inclusive and accepting of everyone, making them feel “part of a family.”
Yet, despite this very clear goal, I spotted Hector from where I was on the platform sitting with no one around him.
I stood there, overwhelmingly irritated at the sight. Everyone on my team knew who Hector was, but most avoided him because, “he smelled weird” or “he talked strange.” Hector came to all our concerts simply because it was the only time of the week he had to interact with other people. Yet there he sat, all alone.
“What are we doing here?” I asked myself.
A Choice to Speak Up… or Stay Silent
After the event was over, the team and I debriefed, talked about how the event went, and discussed what we could do to make it better. I sat in my chair, wanting to speak up about what I had seen, but I had a hard time opening my mouth.
“Is this really that big a deal?” I wondered. “What if the others reject me for telling them what did they wasn’t okay?”
My hands began to shake, I felt like my throat was closing up, but I knew I had to speak—no one should be rejected for being different.
So, though fearful, I spoke.
I told my colleagues about my concern, making sure not to speak out of anger, but out of respectful frustration with the situation. They listened and made excuses as to why they left Hector alone…but none of their excuses were really legitimate. They wanted to protect and defend themselves from guilt after I had brought their mistake into the open.
But though they may have been defensive in the moment, after that night I saw a change in my team. They noticed Hector in subsequent events and they made him feel welcomed. If I hadn’t spoken up, I don’t think the situation with Hector would have changed.
Speaking What’s In Our Hearts
It’s important to remember that there are moments when we must not stay quiet. With our bodies we were given hands to hold things, feet to run, eyes to look, and a mouth to speak. Sometimes, out of fear, we forget to run when we need to, we forget to hold onto things that are important, and we forget to look at what matters.
Many times, we don’t open our mouths to say the words that must be said. We get this feeling like there is something lodged in our tongue; it makes us think that we will say what we want to say incorrectly.
But the truth is this: There is nothing lodged in our tongue. We are just afraid—terrified of being left alone for speaking out our mind.
And we must fight this fear.
So, when you, my dear reader, are in a classroom with a question you want to ask, ask it! When you are with a close friend and you want to tell them something you are afraid to say, say it! And if you’re with that special someone and you want to tell them how you feel, let it be known! Too many chances pass us by because we are so worried to act when we need to.
Consequently, you’re going to say the wrong things sometimes. That’s okay! You don’t learn without being curious, without asking questions, without saying the wrong things, and without making mistakes.
You may lose friends in the process, but you’ll also gain friends in the process. The latter group are the best type of people. They’ll teach you how to speak up, and they’ll show you that your thoughts are amazing.
With a new school year starting off I encourage you, all of you, to take chances, to experience new things, and to start wonderful conversations in which you express yourself fully. Don’t hold back, and speak what’s in your heart!
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.