How To Get More Comfortable With Speaking Your Mind, According To A Psychotherapist
We're always told how important it is to speak your mind, but women are under a double bind in this regard: We're considered either too aggressive, bossy, and pushy or too weak, sensitive, and accommodating when we voice our opinions. But regardless of how others label you, there are ways to speak your mind without disrespecting others or letting them boss you around. After all, as Beyoncé would say, you're not bossy — you're the boss.
"There's a lot of judgment and shaming around the way women prioritize themselves over others," NYC-based psychotherapist and entrepreneur Lilian Ostrovsky tells Bustle. As a consequence, many women struggle to even figure out what they want, let alone voice it. If you're one of those women, that's totally OK. Ostrovsky suggests starting off by meditating to get more aware of the sensations in your body, which are the expression of your emotions. You can also enlist friends, a therapist, or mentorship programs for support. "It's difficult to create this type of growth in a vacuum," says Ostrovsky.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to get better at voicing your opinion, advocating for your needs, and standing up for yourself, even when others don't always welcome it.
1. Respect Others' Opinions
Being assertive doesn't mean you don't see where the other person is coming from. In fact, people are far more likely to respect your own opinion if they see you're taking the time to try to understand theirs, says Ostrovsky. Try to figure out how they arrived at their point of view. Even if it's completely preposterous, something must have led them to believe it. It's only once everyone feels heard that you can arrive at a compromise that satisfies everyone.
2. Knowledge Of Self
Question your own stance just as much as you would question someone else's. Why do you want what you want or feel the way you feel? Maybe you'll discover that your opinion is an emotional one based on your defense-mechanisms, says Ostrovsky. When you have the self-awareness to know exactly what you think and why, people will trust what you say.
3. Continuous Refining Of Language
"When you go to negotiate your position, the clearer you are, the more likely you'll be heard in a way that's more accurate and the more likely you'll connect to the person you're speaking with," says Ostrovsky. "[Often], there is a missing awareness and a missing commitment to refining your language around your experience in the world and what it is you desire." So, think about why you want what you want. Maybe, for example, you want a raise because you think you deserve it. Go with that, rather than trying to craft an argument like "I'll work harder if you give me more money" — because then, you're implying that you don't deserve to be paid more for what you're already doing.
4. Do Your Best
To really get good at communicating, you have to commit to working on all these skills and using them as much as you can, says Ostrovsky. "There are going to be moments that are really difficult. Creating space to learn and refine your ability is really important — and also recognizing that the other person is doing their best as well."
These principles apply to all of your relationships, so they'll all likely look different after you practice them. "This can help a woman have this really nice flow in all her relationships," Ostrovsky says, "so she doesn't have to change herself for every person and every situation."