You Have the Right to Speak Up – Free Ebook

Despite a lot of encouragement, despite political
freedoms and psychological exhortations, we

suffer, still, most of us, in silence. We
don’t say quite say – until it is way

too late – what is wrong, what we want,
how we are angry, what we’re ashamed of

and the way we would like things to be. It
shouldn’t perhaps really be a surprise how

hard the speaking up continues to feel. For
most of the history of humanity, speaking

up was about the most dangerous thing an ordinary
human could do. There were mighty superiors

above us, who demanded complete obedience
and were strictly uninterested in anything

we might have to say. Speaking up would have
got one flogged, excommunicated or killed.

Democracy is, at best, some two hundred and
fifty years old and our psychological development

has a habit of lagging far beyond our social
realities. Long after a war is over, we respond

with the fears of the hunted and centuries
after the last feudal lord moved into an apartment

in town, we behave with some of the meek humility
of the cowed serf. In personal life, similar

principles of submission have applied. Throughout
history, a good child did not speak up in

any way. If we were sad, we cried softly in
our pillow at night. If we mistakenly spilt

some ink, we’d try to hide the evidence.
The adult does not have to be an outright

bully to disable a child from speaking. If they are often
on edge (preoccupied by matters at work),

or seem depressed and close to breakdown or
have elevated yet rigid ideals of who their

children should be, the child might as well
have a belt around their mouth. So most of

the years human beings have been on this planet,
it’s been a story of festering, of sulking,

of bitterness, of suppressed rage, of bitten
lips – and of saying, openly, nothing. Only

very recently, in the last second from an
evolutionary perspective, have we awoken to

the possible benefits and sometime necessity
of speaking up. We know that it is good in

offices if people lower down the organisation
speak up to those towards the top. We know

that it is good, in love, if partners who
feel aggrieved and sad about something (however

small and petty it might sound) speak up,
so as to be able to feel affection and desire

once more. We know in families that it is
good if children manage to tell their parents

they’re not interested in certain sorts
of jobs or complain if they are being mistreated.

But the legacies of our unfreedom are everywhere to be seen.
We smile a little too readily, we try a little

too hard to appease; we are a little too slow
to articulate a hurt. We aren’t, in this

respect, just being nice; we’re scared and ashamed.
Our friendliness is born not out of choice,

but out of an inability to dare to cause upset.
To learn to speak up requires two rather odd-sounding

things. Firstly, a recognition that, at some
level, we are afraid, afraid that if we speak

we will be killed. It sounds odd, and humiliating,
but that is how little children feel when

dad has slammed the door or mum has said enough
times ‘you’ll be the end of me’, and

it is in the childhood imagination that our
picture of what will happen if we speak are

first formed. And secondly, we need to acknowledge,
in our mature moments, the adult truth that

we will not after all be killed if we sepak, because enough
people have already died on our behalf to

guarantee us the freedom of speech and our
right to cross town and start a new life somewhere

else. We need to turn what is already enshrined in
law into what finally feels believable to

us psychologically – that we do, bravely, have the right speak
up.

At The School of Life we believe that confidence is a skill we can all learn.

Our Confidence Prompt Cards are designed to help us master this essential skill. Click now to learn more.