A reader wrote in recently with a difficult (and common) question about when to speak up in a group, and what to do if you speak and then wish you hadn’t.
From my reader:
I read your message on how you can always center yourself — anytime and anywhere. However I have a hard time knowing when to speak up in a spiritual circle I belong to. We’re supposed to listen and not acknowledge our reactions, and this is hard for me. Sometimes I speak and have a tough time feeling okay afterward, as if I’d done something wrong. Any advice?
When to Speak Up In a Group
I love this question because it hits on something that happens to me quite often, and I know from experience what it’s like to wonder whether I should say something or stay quiet in a group setting. I wonder: Is this really in support of the topic or the group experience, or is this just about me being seen, heard, and acknowledged? Will my contribution be in synch with the current atmosphere, or will it create an awkward pause.
And yes, centering is absolutely what’s called for in these “Ki” moments when I want to speak so badly and I’m not sure if I should. What centering does is allow me to be present as I struggle with the moment — the urge and the decision — watching the urges as they rise and fall. Should I say something? What is the feeling in the group right now? Why do I want to speak? Is this a contribution or a distraction? Usually the urges subside as I shine awareness on them. I sort of say “hello” to them and smile internally. “Yep, that’s me showing up again” and my desire to be relevant or sage or whatever.
Dealing With Feedback
I have a simple 5-step internal practice that helps in situations where I want to speak up and am not sure if I should. The model stems from Arnold Mindell’s work in processing difficult group energy and from a post I wrote a few years ago — When to Speak Up in a Group: A 5-Step Model — where you can read more about each of the steps:
- I have a reaction.
- I notice the reaction with awareness.
- I decide if I want to bring it up and whether I can manage the feedback.
- I bring it up.
- I notice the feedback with awareness.
If I do speak and later regret it, then I have a new opportunity to center, observe my inner critic, and notice with curiosity how it resolves. Centering and curiosity protect me from the inner critic.
One last thing — sometimes I play a game with myself around centering. I measure how centered I am on an internal awareness scale, as in, “I’m only about 20% centered right now,” and then watch as the scale goes up or down as I breathe, notice, smile, get curious, and increase my awareness of what’s happening. It keeps things interesting and reminds me that center is not an on-off switch.
What do you think? What would you add to my suggestions about when to speak up? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.