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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

Why Speaking Your Mind Should Not Be Encouraged

Why Speaking Your Mind Should Not Be Encouraged

Ask any parent what their #1 pet peeve is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s their children whining. From a young age, we are taught not to complain and that whining is bad. However, we are also taught that it is important to “speak your mind,” and not let others quiet your opinion. So where do we define the difference? While we can all likely agree that people who complain are not people we would prefer to spend time with, the average person has been found to complain anywhere from 15-30 times per day.[1]

While at first that number may seem unimaginable, think about how simple it is to complain about something. “I’m hot,” “I’m bored,” “These shoes are so uncomfortable,” are all thoughts we may voice throughout the day simply out of the habit of speaking our minds. While we may not think of it as complaining per se, the aforementioned “thoughts” and things as simple as talking about dislikes regarding a person, place, or thing are all complaints.

We speak our mind to seek validation

For the most part, we whine about something because we are facing a challenge. Maybe your co-worker isn’t pulling his weight on a project, or perhaps a waiter was rude and didn’t provide very good service.

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    When we face a problem or situation in which we are unsatisfied, we want to vent in order to find some kind of solution. By vocally addressing the problem, we think we are on the fast track to remedying the situation.

    Humans are wired to want validation, complaining can do that. As social animals, we as humans need to be accepted and validated in order to live in a group and survive.[2] Sometimes we complain, not to irritate the listener, but rather in an attempt to find validation and have that person agree with us. When you complain about something and find that others share your opinion, you have a sense of relief in knowing others are suffering in the same way, and you all feel the same way about it. It’s the same reason we will often voice the same concern to each friend until we find the person who agrees with us; when we aren’t being validated, we instead feel we are being judged for having the opinion in the first place.

    But no one likes a whiner

    While it may feel good to you to vent about things you dislike or ramble on about a concern that only pertains to you, the people around you aren’t sharing that feeling.

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      Think about your social media timeline, we all have that one friend who uses their status to complain about something. It’s usually personal, familial or subtext-related and has no business on social media. However, if you click on the comments, you’ll find plenty of people saying things like, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Let me know how I can help,” and “I know how you feel. I’m here if you need to talk.” Because of the few supporters, that person won’t stop, but you and other like-minded people are likely to hide his or her updates from your feed.

      See, if you insist on “speaking your mind” all the time, you will find yourself in a situation where almost everyone hates you, or at least what you have to say.

      And it has nothing to do with validity. Your complaint could be true and well-worded, but truth isn’t always something people like to be faced with. So the more you shove it in their faces, the more likely they are to reject it and ultimately reject you. Not surprisingly, this is a snowball effect in which your reputation ultimately gets affected because people see you as a complainer, and not a contributor to change.

      Speak your mind only when you plan to contribute

      Whatever you aren’t satisfied with, it could be a problem. Any problem is the source of an idea, and an idea needs execution.

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        While you could whine about a very real issue all day long, simply talking about it isn’t going to fix it, nor will it inspire others to do anything about it. While your complaint undoubtedly started from recognizing a problem and wanting to improve it, simply thinking of or talking about improving something doesn’t change anything. No matter how loud you yell, talking and doing are different things.

        Here at Lifehack, we want you to be opinionated. We want you to change the world! And yes, we want you to speak your mind. However, you should only talk if you’ve already processed the situation and thought about the actions you want to take. Bite your tongue if you have no idea how to make things better.

        Here’s a cheat sheet:

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        • Do bring up the issue if it’s something you have the ability to improve or even fix. And if you can’t do it on your own, propose solutions or ways to handle it to those who would be willing.
        • Do bring up the issue if you’ve thought about it first.
        • Don’t bring up the issue if it’s something out of your ability to fix – this would be the equivalent of complaining about it. Instead think about who to tell and tell them the ideal results you want to see.
        • Don’t just speak out and complain right away after you spot a problem, because remember, truths are hard to accept (especially the harsh truths).

        At the end of the day, there’s a big difference in recognizing a problem and striving to resolve it, and seeing an issue and complaining about it. Think things through and don’t speak without thinking. Let us know how you plan to start!

        Featured photo credit: Colorbox via colourbox.com

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        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2019

        How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

        How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

        Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

        In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

        Step right up, don’t be shy!

        Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

        The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

        Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

        Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
        So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

        A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

        Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

        Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

        When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

        Culturally Conditioned

        We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

        I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

        The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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        Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

        Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

        Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

        1. Broadens Your Network

        After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

        2. Improves Your Communication Skills

        I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

        Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

        3. Continually Learning

        So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

        Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

        4. Increases Self Confidence

        Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

        Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

        So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

        How to Talk to Strangers

        Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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        1. Say Hello

        Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

        Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

        Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

        2. Ask About Them

        Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

        You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

        As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

        3. Just Do It

        One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

        When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

        Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

        4. Don’t Take It Personal

        One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

        When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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        5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

        I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

        One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

        6. Detach

        A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

        Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

        7. Share Your Stories

        Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

        To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

        So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

        8. Give a Compliment

        Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

        When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

        9. Relax Your Body Language

        If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

        When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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        If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

        10. Practice, Practice, Practice

        Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

        Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

        After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

        The Bottom Line

        As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

        There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

        Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

        Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

        More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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