Express Your Opinion & Reduce Anxiety
We all have opinions but whether and where we choose to express them is regulated by all sorts of issues. Expressing a personal opinion to one or more people in authority can be difficult even for self assured people. Yet some people have problems in articulating their thoughts to work colleagues or even friends and family.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing when it comes to dreaming up those razor sharp comments or clever observations we should have made at the time. We're all familiar with biting our tongue and then ruminating afterwards on all the reasons why we shouldn't have. In many ways this is a normal part of human behavior but for some people the prospect of expressing even the mildest form of an opinion is a daunting experience.
There are times to stay quiet and there are other times when bottling things up only leads to anxiety. For some people the danger of expressing an opinion means they will be judged for it and possibly found wanting. They feel it is better to stay quiet or to somehow skirt around the issue. It builds an inner tension that slowly grinds away. At its extremes the person may exhibit passive-aggressive behavior by becoming stubborn, sullen, resentful and obstructive. When their opinion is sought they may use humor to deflect being put on the spot or they may respond in a vague or ambiguous fashion.
Have you ever heard someone say, ‘this is what I think, but I fully expect to be ignored.' Maybe you've said it yourself? It may appear assertive but in fact it conveys the message that what I'm about to share with you will have little or no importance. I'm used to my opinions being overlooked so you might as well disregard it. This is one example of anxiety-driven talk. Anxiety can easily become self-destructive due to the inner talk that precedes the things we say. Common inner-talk includes the notion that the person isn't clever enough to express an opinion or that if they do they will appear foolish. Loss of face, or fear of getting into an argument, are common reason for not expressing opinions.
Expressing an opinion is not the same as being opinionated. It's true that some people only seem capable of expressing themselves in a dogmatic manner but this leaves the listener with the view they are inflexible and incapable of changing their view. Not ever expressing an opinion is a feature of chronic under-assertion. Most people use assertive behaviors in situations they don't find difficult or threatening. Signaling for another beer is an assertive act. So is asking a stranger what time it is. The trick is to extend the acts of assertion you make without difficulty into situations that cause worry. Because of this everyone will have a different starting point and a different focus.
It's important to remember that opinions differ, so trying to settle on one you feel will be inoffensive or correct is not always the best option. At best you simply put off the moment when you may be required to defend your position or that of others. There are times when we have to advocate for people less fortunate, or perhaps defend a case where we have personal doubts but which a team of people support. These situations draw us into a position where commitment to a position affects not just ourselves but also the people around us.
If you find that this Sharepost has struck a cord you might be wondering what to do next? There are different options depending on the severity of your situation. If you feel you are completely under-assertive, lacking in self-confidence and that you recognize many of the features mentioned in the passive-aggressive paragraph, you should consider a confidence-building therapy; perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy. If you don't feel your situation is as extreme you might want to consider joining an assertiveness group. There are many of these around so you can afford to be choosy.
If these don't appeal and you'd rather make your own changes then start gently. Think about the situations and events when you tend to bite your lip (shopping for clothes, picking and choosing things off a menu, expressing an opinion) then express an opinion. It might be as simple as, ‘actually I prefer the blue dress' or ‘I've never really liked coffee that much' to something a little more complex. For example, ‘that's an interesting idea but why don't we/couldn't we' and so on. You'll find that expressing an opinion where you might normally restrain yourself makes you feel good!