Speak up, Buttercup


Spring is here in all it's glory this weekend and Cleveland COULD NOT BE HAPPIER! We deserve it after this long, cold, never-ending winter. I wore jean shorts today and Moses was running around the back yard throwing a ball for the dogs. They're kind of terrible at playing fetch but they were exciting nonetheless.

While running errands with my windows down, I was reflecting on when and how it's appropriate to speak up. When is it ok for me to use my voice to say something like:

"That is not ok."

"Please don't speak to me like that."

"I am not comfortable with that. Please stop."

"That really upsets me."

Here is when I believe it's necessary:

  • When you've tried other softer/gentler means of getting across a point and it's not working
  • When you or someone else is being spoken down to, yelled at, or inappropriately blamed
  • When you witness a pattern of behavior towards yourself and/or others that causes pain
  • When the person you're speaking to does not seem to have your best interest in mind and you need to stand up for yourself and be your own advocate
  • When a person uses their position of authority or power to uplift themselves while simultaneously bringing others down
  • When a person does not properly taking care of those who are working alongside or beneath them (overworks/underpays/does not honor their commitments)
  • When someone else who is not as strong as you (for whatever reason) cannot speak for themselves

It occurred to me that using my voice in these scenarios typically really upsets people. They feel angry. They feel hurt. They feel offended. People do not love a "no", it turns out. They also kind of loathe a "That's not o.k.". Like really, really, loathe it.

I get this, because I loathe it too. When people tell me "no" or point out when I'm not at my best, my instinct is to a) HIDE or b) vehemently disagree. This is NORMAL. Having said that, as adults, we do need to recognize when we are in that place of defensiveness and make a choice to respond like the badass, ever-loving, understanding person we are with:

"I'm bummed out, but it's ok."

"Thank you for sharing how you feel. It's hard for me to process but I know it's real to you and because of that it matters to me."

"I want to fix this."

"I want to grow and be better. Not just for you, but for me."

"I hate hearing no, but I understand it's part of life. I'm proud of you for setting boundaries."

"I'm hurt right now, but I'll be ok. Thank you for speaking your truth."

Just to be clear, inappropriate responses to someone speaking up are as follows:




e) ATTACKING (because speaking up is not an attack - it's a call to action)

It's not by accident that my business name is UP SPEAK and that if you flip those words you have yourself a loud and clear: SPEAK UP. It's something we all need to be reminded of sometimes but I do feel it's particularly relevant to women these days. Our culture is getting better and better at using it's voice to defend what's good and fair and end what is NOT OK.

It's a very unfortunate truth that people often respond to you pointing out their unkindness (aka: bad behavior) as VERY UNKIND. I try not to be in the business of telling others how unkind they are all of the time. Let's face it: we're ALL unkind sometimes. I look the other way when I feel it's merited. Having said that, I've spent the entirety of my life working on having a voice that's loud and clear when it comes to injustice. I'm quite comfortable using it at this point. If I see someone treat another person poorly, in particular, that really gets my goat. I'm not great at keeping quiet in those circumstances.

Bullies (people who get off on putting people down) will tell me, "YOU ARE SO UNKIND TO POINT OUT MY UNKINDNESS! HOW DARE YOU?"

Read between the lines. What they are really saying (if you can pause and listen) is, "IT HURTS TO HEAR THE TRUTH ABOUT MYSELF. STOP IT!" And that's ok. I'm ok with it. I feel like I'm doing them a service in the long run. Maybe one day they'll wake up and go, "Shit. I've treated people really poorly. It's a pattern in my life. I want to learn to be better." Then again, maybe they won't. That part is up to them/us (cuz let's face it: we can flip this whole scenario around pretty easily when we are the ones in the wrong).


Here's my advice: speak up, buttercups. Things don't get done in the shadows. You'll be shaky at first but one day (not so far from now) you'll be as clear and confidant as you hope to be and it will shake the people around you. Some may even listen.



Meg Witt