How to Speak Your Mind Without Fear: 3 Techniques to Practice

Are you afraid of being your authentic self? How can you speak your mind without fear?

There’s never a bad time to be your authentic self, one who speaks your mind. According to Not Nice by Aziz Gazipura, people avoid speaking their minds for several reasons we’ll get into below.

Let’s look at how to speak your mind without fear.

Speak Your Mind

There are several reasons why you may not know how to speak your mind without fear: You fear hurting someone’s feelings, causing offense, or inciting anger; you aim to avoid being perceived as rude, mean, or aggressive; or you hesitate to show emotions, appear needy, or make public mistakes.

(Shortform note: While it’s important to speak your mind, it’s also important to recognize the balance between authenticity and consideration. In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman underscores the importance of discerning when and how to articulate your thoughts. By honing emotional intelligence, you can embrace an authentic version of yourself and navigate interpersonal dynamics adeptly. This skill involves recognizing and understanding your emotions, enabling you to choose your responses thoughtfully rather than reacting impulsively, ensuring that authenticity doesn’t inadvertently cause harm or misunderstanding.)

While these fears are powerful deterrents, Gazipura argues they’re based on false beliefs about relationships. In the world of nice, if you disagree with someone or express strong volition, that person will like you less. In reality, honesty strengthens relationships. When you say what you think, you treat the other person as a capable and resilient adult, allowing both of you to be your authentic selves, regardless of whether you agree.

(Shortform note: It’s important to be honest, but Harriet Lerner, psychologist and author of The Dance of Deception, emphasizes that timing and context matter. She suggests that the effectiveness of honesty is heavily influenced by the environment and the emotional state of the listener; therefore, she advocates a more nuanced approach. She explains that finding a balance between being authentic and being considerate will allow you to build stronger, more understanding relationships.)

According to Gazipura, to speak up effectively, you must communicate assertively—express yourself clearly while also considering others’ feelings. This helps everyone talk openly, respect each other, and set clear boundaries for healthy interactions. In contrast, passive communication involves holding back your thoughts and needs, often leading to frustration and misunderstandings, and aggressive communication is forceful and disrespectful, causing conflicts and damaging relationships. Being assertive strikes a balance, fostering effective and respectful conversations.

(Shortform note: Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a model for assertive communication. Central to NVC is the idea of expressing oneself honestly and compassionately. It guides individuals to make objective observations free of judgment, express feelings and needs without attributing blame, and make clear, nondemanding requests. This approach avoids the ambiguity found in passive communication and the dominance of aggressive communication.)

1. Practice in a Social Setting

One place you can practice speaking up more is in social settings. When you’re hanging out with friends or out at a party with new people, practice speaking openly about yourself, your opinions, and your ideas. If you want to connect with people, you have to choose to be authentic over being nice.

(Shortform note: Speaking up isn’t the only way to practice authenticity in social settings. As Brené Brown highlights in The Power of Vulnerability, true connection comes from both authentic communication and shedding inhibitions that hide our true selves. For example, at a party, you can speak candidly about your opinions, but you can also wear something that represents your true personal style or put on music that you love, regardless of what other people might think.)

Gazipura says that becoming confident in social settings often means reevaluating your rules of social interaction. For instance, you don’t need permission to join a conversation; you can simply jump in. Moreover, new conversations don’t require a specific structure; instead, aim to build connections by discussing what genuinely interests you, rather than sticking to what’s expected. 

(Shortform note: While there are some rules you may need to revise, like waiting to be invited into a conversation, there are universal norms of conversation that are helpful to consider. For example, a cross-cultural study involving 10 languages discovered universal patterns in conversational turn-taking. Regardless of linguistic background, all languages exhibited a common preference for preventing talk overlap and minimizing pauses between conversational turns, implying the existence of a shared foundational structure for conversation.)

2. Practice in a Professional Setting

Next, practice speaking up at work. Regardless of what position you hold, your ability to speak up will have a profound impact on your professional success. People are often most hesitant to speak their mind at work because they’re afraid of being wrong, getting challenged, or looking stupid. However, if you don’t confront these fears, you’ll become stagnant and unable to advance professionally.

(Shortform note: Speaking up at work is essential for professional growth, but for many women, this act is complicated by a pattern of their concerns or opinions being disregarded. For example, a survey revealed that a significant number of women, despite facing discrimination at work, refrained from reporting it due to a belief that it wouldn’t lead to any positive outcome or due to a mistrust of HR processes. Many argue that encouraging women to speak up must be coupled with broader organizational change that addresses system biases that undermine or silence women’s voices.)

Gazipura offers a few tips to help you gain confidence speaking up in a professional setting. First, he recommends asking questions. It’s a low-stakes way to speak up that shows curiosity and engagement. Second, recognize that you have specific skills and experiences that give you a unique perspective. And third, say what you want to say with confidence. Avoid qualifiers, like “just” or “maybe,” that minimize what you’re saying.

(Shortform note: Building relationships will also help increase your confidence in speaking up. By forging strong connections with coworkers, you not only create a supportive environment but also open channels for feedback and collaboration. A recent study emphasized the importance of this approach, showing that ideas backed by a cohesive team are more likely to be implemented. So, by nurturing these workplace relationships, you’re also paving the way for your ideas to be heard and realized.)

3. Practice When It’s Uncomfortable

The hardest time to speak your mind is when it’s uncomfortable—usually when you’re mad at someone or disagree with them. But, as in your professional life, your success and quality of life depend on your ability to have difficult conversations. Disagreement is inevitable and healthy. These conversations become easier when you don’t pit yourself against the other person. Your goal isn’t to win but to connect with the other person, to listen and be heard.

Gazipura recommends the following approach for handling any conflict: Begin by identifying your emotions, such as frustration or anger. Next, clarify what changes you want. For example, if you’re unhappy with infrequent communication with a close friend, think about what you’d prefer. Then describe the issue neutrally and express curiosity, saying something like, “I’ve noticed we don’t talk very often, and I’m curious to understand why.” Actively listen as the other person shares, and summarize their response to make sure you understand. Then, explain how the situation affects you. Finally, clearly state your desired outcome, but remain open to compromise. Just because you name what you want, doesn’t mean you’ll always get it.

How to Speak Your Mind Without Fear: 3 Techniques to Practice

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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