When Silence Isn’t Golden
When conflict arises, are you speaking your truth?
Life presents us with an ongoing series of situations that can strain relationships. Conflict is a natural part of life, with the potential to arise when you face resistance, pressure, change, or merely interacting with others. It brings up uncomfortable feelings which can threaten well-being. Whenever friction arises from unmet or competing needs, wants, and values, a gap occurs, creating a “connection chasm.”
Our judgments, assumptions, frustrations, annoyances, misunderstandings, expectations, suspicions, opposing perspectives, and more can all spark conflict, an inevitable part of life’s interactions. When that connection chasm forms, anger, whether mild or wild, can result. Yet anger doesn’t have to eat you up, pollute the atmosphere, or ruin your relationships. In fact, it’s often because they’re not dealt with, that the gap grows wider and you become distressed, drained, and disconnected by them.
When some people are peeved, it’s unmistakable; they let you know their feelings in no uncertain terms, and they “tell it like it is.” At the other end of the spectrum are those who repress, swallow, and stuff their feelings because of the discomfort they produce. Holding back powerful feelings breeds resentment and sabotages authentic relationships, which must be based on emotional integrity.
If you stuff your feelings about something that’s upsetting, you know your reasons for remaining silent–believing some matters just aren’t worth ruining a relationship, making a scene, or rocking the boat (although that boat is already riding over troubled water!) Or you’re uncomfortable with conflict and want to “keep the peace” at any price (except your own), or knowing that by admitting your unhappiness with a person or situation might set the stage for major change and you’re not ready for that, at least not now. So you bite your lips until they’re raw and stuff it down . . . again.
But the drawbacks of suppressing your anger can add up. Over time, irritations or issues fester, and the pent-up energy from stuffed feelings can make you resentful and bitter. Not speaking your truth in alignment with your needs and values is destructive to emotional integrity and healthy relationships. And keeping silent on issues that concern you is particularly harmful to long-term relationships. It takes an enormous amount of emotional and physical energy to keep powerful feelings stuffed inside where they silently brew.
Repressed anger doesn’t go away; it simmers for awhile and usually finds an outlet, sometimes “out of the blue” from the slightest provocation. Its wrath can escalate into verbal abuse, sarcasm, irritability, temper tantrums, overreactions to minor annoyances, or even physical assaults on people or property. It can produce headaches, ulcers, heart disease, hypertension, rashes, digestive disorders, and many other maladies. Over time, repressing feelings deadens the ability to feel much emotion of any kind, including the joy of living.
Speaking your truth enlightens those who may be clueless about what you want and need or what may be missing in the relationship. They also learn about your limits, the boundaries of what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior, how a situation affects you, and where they “crossed the line.” When you don’t express your boundaries, others may think their actions were acceptable to you.
By bringing matters out into the open, you provide a platform of sharing. Others may be stuffing their feelings down as well; giving voice to them offers a clearing away of stuffed energy. Through honest communication, you talk about the issues that are in the way and hopefully breathe life back into the connections. This dialogue helps to resolve the accumulated tension surrounding a situation, clarifies needs, and shares ways that won’t be disconnecting in the future. Sharing your authentic feelings builds and strengthens integrity, harmony, and healthy relationships.
By seeing conflict as a natural part of life, shows where a relationship needs attention. With this perspective, it can be seen as a change agent for creating and maintaining dynamic, purposeful relationships. However, it might also signal the need for sharing your truth on matters necessary to claim a greater state of well-being in tune with living authentically. By remaining silent, you are stuffing down your truth, not giving voice to who you are and your needs. Then you must decide what is the price of keeping peace if it robs you of your own.