Dr. Wall Says

Speak up, listen up, bridge the gap

Speak up! How to master difficult conversations

Ep 38 - Tough choices, difficult conversations and daunting changesDifficult conversations are a part of life.

Whether it’s letting someone know you love them (or that you don’t anymore), asking for a raise, or bringing up a complaint with a close friend, life is full or tough conversations and uncomfortable topics.

You can skirt the issue. You can act out passive-aggressively, and force someone else to deal with the issue first, or you can speak up!

Speaking-up is hard to do!

No Shit! It’s terrifying to put yourself out there, and share your thoughts, needs and feelings with someone else. The risk of being rejected, or getting into a fight/conflict is high. That’s probably why so many people would rather remain unhappy, suck it up, and shove their feelings deep, deep down.

For those of you who, like me, would rather be open and honest, rather than skirting the issues that trouble you, consider the following:

  1. If you are distressed you need to make a change. If you often feel frustrated, irritated, sad, anxious or stressed then something IMPORTANT is bothering you. You need to make a change.
  2. Difficult topics never get easier. You’ll find a hundred reasons why it’s not the right time to speak up. In our most recent podcast, I share how I put off having a conversation with my husband for six (6) months!!!! I would wake up every single day, knowing I needed to talk with him about issues surrounding our marriage (what couple doesn’t). Every day I would find a reason, usually quite valid, why today wasn’t the right day.
  3. There is no certainty. No matter how many times you play the conversation in your head you’re not going to be able to predict the outcome with any certainty. This might seem self-evident, but it’s the need for certainty and the lack of it, that drives our anxiety. If you could predict that you would be heard, welcome, and that your issues would be addressed positively, nothing would hold you back.
  4. The worst is never as bad as you think it is. The reality that you create in your mind is often far worse than what will actually happen. Yeah, you might get in an argument. Maybe you were less eloquent than you wanted to be. Worst comes to worst you spoke up and were totally rejected and ignored. None of that is more painful than the mental anguish that you go through.
  5. You’ve got everything to lose! You’ve got everything to lose by NOT speaking up, that is. If you need someone or something to change, and you don’t do anything about it, life will catch up with you. This doesn’t mean that the issues will magically right themselves. It means that you will become more distressed, more resentful, and more miserable. In the end, the burden that you bear will come out, but it will probably be ugly, unproductive, and too late by then.

Hopefully, these five truths will motivate you to speak up! If not, remember this:

[bctt tweet=”Stand for something, be true to who you are. Speak up. #speakup #truth #drwallsays” username=”lifenfocus”]

Likewise, passivity, not saying what you mean or meaning what you say, has to be one of the biggest turn-offs I can think of. In essence it is dishonesty, inauthenticity, and hypocrisy.

I recently went through a number of upsets with a group of people. What made me write most of them off was not that we disagreed, it’s that they never had the courage nor the honesty to bring their issues up with me in person. I don’t do polite to your face, but trash talking behind your back; nor should you.

You are neither dishonest nor hypocritical:

One of my biggest pet peeves is lack of assertiveness. It bothers me so much that I chose“speak in truth” as the primary principle of my manifesto. Speak in truth means be you, have the courage to stand in defense of your beliefs, to share the values that you stand for, and to pursue your needs.

In other words, SPEAK-UP!

Most people don’t realize that by failing to speak-up, you are pretending to be someone you are not; you are lying to others and potentially to yourself. Few of us actually aspire to be dishonest, but too many of us (honestly the vast majority of people I know) struggle to be assertive and speak-up.


Some of the major reasons people aren’t assertive are listed above: fear of conflict, fear of uncertainty, fear of rejection… FEAR.

There is also the fact that many of us struggle to articulate what we need or want. If you can’t make sense of what you are feeling or need, trying to share it with someone else can feel impossible. 

This issue comes up time and again both in therapy and with coaching clients. They know something is bothering them. They are unhappy at work, avoiding a friend, pissed off with their partner, but they can’t articulate why. They are lacking those insights.

Before you can speak up, you have to understand. To understand, you have to know yourself. To know yourself, you must have insight.

There is also the fact that they don’t trust that they’ll say what they want, and make it come out the right way. Sometimes you understand all too well what is going on, but you worry that you’ll make a mess of it. You know that when you get emotional you use the wrong words, get defensive, and fumble. You worry that you will say something and sound like an ass. Knowing how to articulate your thoughts in the simplest and most straightforward way possible is a skill (I’m still working on it).

Tips for speaking-up!

There you’ve got it, all the reasons we aren’t assertive, and all the reasons why you should be. Now let’s talk about how you go about changing that.

If you want to talk about what’s going on, you gotta understand it:

The insight piece is huge, it is an involved process, but it is necessary. Try to take the time to investigate your emotions, don’t run away from or cover-up negative feelings!

[bctt tweet=”You can’t talk about what you need if you don’t take the time understand or see it for yourself. #speakup #lifeinfocussd” username=”lifenfocus”]

There is quick check-in I use to manage daily stress, but it is an excellent way to start understanding why you feel the way you feel. You can also commit and go much deeper into the whole INSIGHT piece.

Start small:

Practice speaking up on issues that are safe. Where do you want to go eat? What movie would you rather see? let others know if you like or dislike things. Let someone know when they do simple things that you don’t like.

Practice the following mantra:

  • “Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away!”
  • “There is no such thing as certainty, there is no such thing as a perfect time.”
  • “Today is a good day to talk!”

Talk about this:

When you are finally ready to speak up, be sure to touch on all six of the following points.

  1. What specific situation(s) are upsetting you?
  2. What emotions are being brought-up (sadness, anger, hurt, fear, helplessness…)?
  3. What’s making you feel this way (hint, it’s not the situation, it’s what you are making of it)?
  4. Empathize with the person you are addressing (look at things from their point of view).
  5. Ask for what you need.
  6. Set a limit – let them know what will happen if there is no change. This is not blackmail, nor an ultimatum, but rather a simple statement about what is naturally bound to happen if you continue to feel distressed.

Don’t have time to jot all of this down? I’ve create a nifty checklist you can download, with all six of these points +  further advice on how to create the perfect “difficult conversation” speech. Just click the image below and get it for FREE.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.



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