Are You Unsure You Could Defend Your Ideas? – Stop Self-Silencing EP #8

By Fifi Mason

Ever been in a situation where you avoided speaking up because you felt unsure you could defend your point of view? This is another core reason you might be self-silencing. 

Maybe you have a thought or an opinion on a topic, but you hold back from sharing it, not because you don’t believe in it, but because you’re not sure if you could defend it if someone questioned you, or tried to debate it.

This hesitation is common in environments where we feel less confident, whether it’s in a professional setting, a social gathering, or even online.

Part of this fear stems from not wanting to engage in conflict. 

Many of us naturally shy away from situations that could lead to disagreements or arguments. We might worry about the emotional toll it could take or the potential damage to relationships, especially if the discussion becomes heated or confrontational. 

This avoidance of conflict can often leave us silent, even when we have valuable insights to share.

Then there is the paralysing fear of not being able to defend our ideas. 

It’s rooted in the worry that we might be put on the spot, questioned, or even challenged, and that we won’t have the right words or the depth of knowledge to back up our stance or point of view.

It’s like having a voice but being unsure of its strength or its reach. The concern we have isn’t necessarily about the validity of our ideas, but more about our ability to articulate and justify them when faced with opposition or scrutiny.

Where Does This Fear of Conflict Come From?

The root of this issue often lies in our self-confidence and how we perceive our own knowledge and expertise.

For some, this lack of confidence stems from moments when they’ve felt embarrassed about not being able to support their own opinions. 

Picture being in a meeting where you propose an idea, and then someone challenges it. In that moment, you might find yourself struggling for words, unable to articulate your idea clearly. This experience can leave you feeling embarrassed, leading to a decision to stay quiet the next time around.

For others, the issue is more about feeling that they don’t know as much as others, particularly those who appear more knowledgeable.

Imagine a family dinner where a challenging topic arises. You have your own perspective, but you choose to remain silent, concerned that your more vocal or informed family members might question your ideas, and you’ll be unable to express yourself effectively.

This worry is often worsened by the pressure to always have perfectly crafted, foolproof opinions. In today’s world, and particularly on social media, there’s a strong focus on being ‘right’ and a fear of public criticism. 

Unfortunately, this mindset can stifle learning and growth, as well as healthy discussion. It creates an environment where people hesitate to speak unless they are completely sure of themselves, a state that’s not always attainable.

How To Move Past The Fear of Conflict or Debate

1. Be Curious

One effective strategy is adopting a mindset of curiosity and learning rather than seeing discussions as battles to be won.

It’s about shifting from a defensive stance to an exploratory one. 

When you share an idea and someone challenges it, instead of feeling threatened, view it as an opportunity to deepen your understanding or refine your perspective. Encourage questions and be open to different points of view.

2. Be Prepared

Another important step is to prepare and educate ourselves. 

If you have an idea or opinion that you feel strongly about, take the time to research and understand it thoroughly. This doesn’t mean you need to know everything, but having a solid foundation can boost your confidence in discussing and defending your ideas.

3. Practice Talking About It

Practising your communication skills can also be incredibly helpful. Engage in conversations on topics you’re passionate about in safe, supportive environments. Over time, as you get more comfortable, gradually expand these discussions to more challenging settings.

How to Articulate Your Thoughts More Clearly

If you’re in a situation where you’ve been put on the spot, here are three ways that could help you articulate your thoughts more easily:

1. Tracing the Evolution of Your Knowledge

Start by asking yourself, ‘What was my very first understanding of this topic?’ Reflect on your initial thoughts or beliefs about the subject. 

Then, consider how your understanding has evolved over time. Has new information changed your perspective? Have your experiences reshaped your viewpoint? This step helps you realise the depth and development of your knowledge, giving you a foundation to confidently express your current stance.

2. Leading with Emotions: 

Sometimes, it’s easier to connect with how a topic makes you feel before diving into the specifics of what you think. Ask yourself, ‘What emotions does this topic evoke in me?’ 

For example, if a particular news story or social issue makes you feel sad, start there. Lead with this by say ‘When I read about this, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.’ Then, explore why. Why does this topic make you feel this way? ‘I felt this way because…” and follow that thought process.

3. Using Metaphors: 

Metaphors are a powerful tool in communication. They can help clarify complex ideas and make your thoughts more relatable. 

Think about what metaphors could best describe your perspective on the topic. For instance, if you’re discussing change, you might use the metaphor of waves or ripples to illustrate how one action can lead to a series of consequences. Using metaphors not only makes your explanation more engaging but also helps you frame your thoughts in a way that’s easier to articulate and for others to understand.

So using these three ways, you can develop a more structured and confident approach to expressing your thoughts and opinions.

Feel Empowered to Share Your Thoughts & Ideas

Remember, the key is to build on your understanding, connect with your emotions, and find creative ways to communicate your perspective. This is not just about preparing for debates or discussions; it’s about empowering yourself to share your unique viewpoint with the world.

Finally, it’s crucial to acknowledge and accept that it’s okay not to have all the answers. 

It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know enough about this to have a firm opinion yet,’ or, ‘I’ll think about that and get back to you.’ Remember, the goal isn’t to always be right, but to engage in meaningful and constructive conversation.

For more insights, check out my book “Stop Self-Silencing”, and if you want support from me to help you on your visibility journey as an impact maker or coach, join my mini-membership The Visibility Lab.

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