Updated: Aug 4
My Experience With Using My Voice
“Don’t worry, I can promise you…you’re not going to hurt his feelings.” This was something I heard over and over from my mentor when I was in my early 20s. At that time, I had already been given opportunities to meet and work with a variety of people in many different types of situations (volunteering, work, babysitting, ministry, and more). I have always been an extrovert so it was enjoyable for me to get to know people and learn to work well with them.
For about two years I was a part of a team being led by a man who I found intimidating. He wasn’t a bad guy, and in fact was a kind person, a good teacher, and personable. Even so, sometimes I struggled with the way he would say things in our meetings and would feel frustrated with him. This caused some conflict between us – that he often was unaware of until I talked with him about it.
During that time, I had a wonderful mentor who I met with weekly. I’m still incredibly thankful for her! We usually met on the same day as our team meetings and she often (very patiently) listened to me talk about something my leader had said or done. She would then encourage me to address it with him. She knew my leader well and one thing I heard her say many times was that I didn’t have to worry about hurting his feelings.
So often, when I would be discussing with her about how to address whatever issue with him, I would worry that I would say something wrong or hurt his feelings in some way. She helped me to see that he had a thicker skin than I realized AND that maybe this was a bit of an excuse for me not to try to resolve the issue with him. (She did not encourage me to “let it go”!) And guess what…there wasn’t one time when his feelings were hurt by something I said! Each time I brought something to discuss with him he was willing to talk it out and we were able to resolve the issue. I always felt relieved that we were able to work through a problem. It was also never as bad as I thought it would be. I learned a lot during that time about managing conflict and speaking up. Looking back, I realize that I also was gifted with two leaders who were kind enough to help me to grow as a person and as a team member.
Since then, I’ve worked with a variety of personalities. Some have been open to resolving issues and some more closed. A few made themselves approachable and others were very difficult to talk to. At times, I felt like I did well to seek to resolve an issue but at other times I avoided it. This was my choice and not to be blamed on another person.
How to Use Your Voice as a Woman
As a woman I’ve realized that it can feel like there’s an extra layer or two of intimidation to speaking up for us. Depending on our background there could even be more.
One layer that makes is harder to speak up for us is the idea that we need to be is “nice” as women. Many of us were brought up to be sweet and nice. (I really don’t like that word “nice” – but maybe that’s a subject for another blog!). The expectation has often been for women to be kind, caring, supportive, friendly, non-boat-rocking people. Oh – and we should do that with a smile.
So, when it comes time for us to address a problem or seek to resolve conflict, we can struggle with the idea that this isn’t “nice.” Or that maybe we’re picking a fight. We may feel that we should wait and see what happens. Or maybe the other person will magically change their behavior. And we worry that if we bring something up that it could hurt the other person’s feelings or cause them to be upset.
With this kind of thinking we can end up avoiding conflict resolution at all. Instead, we are left feeling frustrated, defeated, helpless, and wishing things could change. It’s important to remember that those things listed in the paragraph above – they are mostly in our own minds and may even simply be excuses for why we don’t address some problem we know in our hearts needs to be addressed.
Do Not Make Excuses for Using Your Voice
Another layer of intimidation that many women experience is the way that some male leaders (still) don’t seem to welcome a woman speaking up for herself. Sometimes in some situations a woman may feel unsure or unable to speak up. Like above, this could be an excuse a woman might make for avoiding speaking up. Be careful not to get caught in that. Today there are many ways a woman can speak up – whether for themselves or others, particularly in professional settings. So, don’t let this stop you!
(It seems important to also point out that I’m not talking about speaking out just because you want your voice to be heard. There are times when it’s good to speak up and times when it’s better to be quiet and listen. Sometimes we can learn and at other times we might be able to teach. If we aren’t willing to listen, we might not earn the right to be heard.)
As I look back, I realize that I was blessed to have a leader who was willing to engage in resolving conflict with me. He easily could have brushed me off or told me to stop bothering him. Instead, he was respectful and listened and he was willing to talk things over with me. Not all leaders (male or female) are willing to do that.
Do Not Be Afraid to Use Your Voice
So, I want to encourage you, in the workplace, but also in other areas of your life – don’t be afraid to use your voice! It takes time to learn and grow in any area and that includes this one. If you need it, find a mentor or a therapist who will listen and cheer you on! (And sometimes hold you accountable to follow through.) Your voice is important and needed.
Do I still have plenty to learn in this area of speaking up – oh yes. Do I still avoid resolving conflict sometimes – again, yes. If you have seen me as a therapist or know me as a friend, you will know that I will tell you that resolving a problem or speaking up is like muscle. We all need to practice using it to address issues quickly as they come up. The more we practice, the more we will learn, and the more we will improve.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 7b
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
Begin Working With A Therapist in Marietta, GA
If you need help advocating for yourself, please consider reaching out to a qualified therapist. Our team of caring therapists would be honored to offer support with in-person and online services from our Marietta, GA-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:
Reach out to talk to a Marietta therapist.
Have your first appointment at Remain Connected.
Learn how to use your voice.
Other Services Offered at Remain Connected Counseling
Our team knows you may experience more than learning how to advocate for yourself. This is why we are happy to offer a variety of services including teen therapy, anxiety treatment, and EMDR therapy. In addition, we also offer life transitions therapy and depression counseling, and more all under a Christian counseling lens. By using online therapy, these services are available to anyone in Georgia. Learn more about our team of dedicated therapists and contact us for more information.