Practicing Strategic Bravery: When and How to Speak Up
This is the practice that builds on the original Bravery post
Shauna saw her mom arrive to pick her up from school. As she turned the corner making her way to the car, she saw a group of 6 or 7 kids walking in the other direction. She stared at them as she slowed her walking. “Should I say something? Should I speak up?”
She looked at her mom waiting in the car and back at the kids. She didn’t have much time to make this decision. She made a quick judgment, mustered up her courage and shouted at the whole group: “Y’all need to stop talking about Cassie!”
Cassie was her friend and this group of kids had been spreading rumors (lies!) and gossiping about her.
“Y’all know it’s not true!” Cassie said as she continued to walk and stare at them.
The kids acted like they didn’t know what she was talking about and some started laughing a little. “You know what you are doing!” she responded back.
As she climbed into the car, she shared the situation with her mom.
At first, she felt proud that she had been so brave to stick up for her friend and speak up.
But then, her mood started to change. She began getting a knot in the pit of her stomach.
She began checking her phone repeatedly wondering about the potential backlash.
“You know what’s the worst?” she said to her mom, “It’s actually the girls, not the boys yelling back at me for speaking up. That doesn’t make any sense!”
The answer is simpler than it seems. Below are three ways (backed by research) to practice strengthening our courage to try.
This experience is so common and yet so complicated.
It can feel like such a lose-lose situation: Do you stay silent which sends the message that the behavior is okay when it’s really NOT okay? Or do you speak up and potentially face the backlash?
How do you decide? Be strategic about it using these tips below.
BRAVERY / TRY THIS
1. Think about your values. What’s important to you? How do you want to live your life? Below are some values to get you started. You can choose from the ones below or add your own.
- Having fun
Looking for more?This post has 102 more options!
2. Daily affirmations. Pick the 3-5 values that are most important to you. Remind yourself daily about these values to stay connected to who you are and what you stand for. To remind yourself, you can:
- Record them on evrmore (bonus: play them back to hear your convictions and use them as reinforcement)
- Put them on a sticky note in the bathroom so you can see it each time you brush your teeth,
- Write them down in a note that you keep with you and pull it out whenever you need a reminder,
- Share them with your most trusted friends and ask them to remind you about your values when you feel lost,
- What else can you try?
3. Think about how you can connect your actions to your values. The more you can align (connect) your actions with your values, the more confident you will feel in your decisions. This is what it means to speak your truth!
People’s bad reactions might still hurt, but at least you will know you are staying true to yourself. In fact, the research shows aligning your actions with your values helps you be better at making decisions, developing relationships, and handling painful situations.
Try this exercise: Write down each of your values and what it could look like to “act in alignment” with them. We’ll get you started with a few examples:
Value Action Honesty If someone asks for my feedback, I will be honest and not lie to them. Integrity I will not cheat on a test and I will not let anyone else cheat from me. Kindness I will treat everyone gently and assume good intentions. I will try not to snap at people or call them names when I’m angry.
4. Visualize it. Before you go out and practice these, try to visualize (imagine) some situations and what it would look like if you were aligned the way you wrote it out above.
- What would you see?
- What behaviors would others see that would be different about you?
- What would other people hear you saying that might be different?
5. Start practicing aligning! For example, in the situation above, Shauna thought it through this way:
I’m all about honesty and friendship.
Cassie is important to me as a friend and these people are not my friends because they are telling lies that aren’t aligned with my value of honesty.
If I speak up, they will continue not being my friends, which is okay with me because they do not align with my values of honesty and friendship.
If I don’t speak up, I might send the wrong message to Cassie that I think this is okay, which I don’t.
I know Cassie would want to stick up for me if she were in my shoes.
I feel safe to speak up because my mom is right there and these kids aren’t major bullies. So … I think I will say something and see what happens.
6. Dealing with negative reactions. Let’s be honest, not everyone will appreciate you being aligned with your values. In fact, some people might even try to sabotage or undermine your efforts! For example, they might say, “What’s the big deal?” or “But I thought you were my friend!” Here are some points to remind yourself in those moments:
This comment is not about me. It’s about them. It means they realize they are doing the wrong thing and they want me to make them feel better about it. But that’s not my role. I’m doing the right thing by trying to be honest.
They might disagree with me, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a good point to make. My perspective is valid.
I feel bad, sad, and guilty. But these feelings don’t mean I’m doing the wrong thing. Sometimes doing the right thing can lead to sadness because it means I am choosing to let go of something, like bad friendships or unhealthy behaviors.
A true friend would never judge me for being aligned with my values and trying to do the right thing.
By Dr. Mira Brancu
Consulting Psychologist, Author, Speaker