5 Reasons Even The Strongest Women Have Trouble Speaking Up For Themselves (& How To Fix It)

Simply stating our needs sooner rather than later saves us from future stress. So why don't we speak up?

There are many ways we wind up complicating or prolonging uncomfortable relationships and situations by holding our tongues — sometimes with great intentions.

The goal is not over-sharing, over-personalizing, or feeling the need to have an opinion on everything. If you simply observe when your silence did not serve you, you'll start asking yourself some questions.

What held you back? What can you learn on how to speak up for yourself?

RELATED: 5 Things I Learned Today When I Spoke Up For Myself

Here are 5 reasons even the strongest women have trouble speaking up — plus, how to overcome them:

1. They want to avoid creating conflict.

When did our culture make disagreement so negative that we don’t learn skills and confidence to manage the normal tension of differing needs and opinions?

Some work and family cultures support conflict aversion in the name of consensus and totally miss the value and depth of different perspectives.

Managing conflict is a skill set that can be learned and practiced until you feel more at ease. Learn the power of Non-violent communication (NVC) or listen to/read a great source.

2. They play it safe by shutting down.

Sometimes, there is a good reason to put the brakes on. If you are "triggered" or swimming in murky emotional waters thanks to whatever is going on in your life, shutting down feels like the safest way to make sure you don’t blurt some less-than-adult verbiage that will alter the course of your history.

Chances are speaking up earlier might have precluded this predicament, but now you have to deal… then learn.

Firstly, don’t judge yourself for the feelings. To think we are not emotional creatures does us all a disservice. But, step away and take time to get clear about what is data, what the story is, and what you need right now.

Ask yourself who wants to be in this situation and what helps you operate as your best self.

3. They doubt themselves and feel intimidated.

Yes, even the top of the heap can lack confidence in some areas or relationships. After all, high achievers tend to have very strong inner critics that can take the self-editing job way too seriously.

And I have seen C-suite superstars totally clam up when it comes to personal relationship needs, sometimes because they are less certain of their effectiveness in that domain, or are worried about letting loved ones down.

Confidence is not an all or nothing game. Start with curiosity, not self-judgment! Notice where you shy away from speaking your needs. Write down what you’d really like to convey. Be succinct. Use NVC. Then, practice.

Ask if it is a good time to bring up something on your mind and listen. Never hesitate to enlist help either in getting clear or facilitating the discussion — it’s almost always worth it!

RELATED: 9 Little Ways To Build Your Self-Confidence (That Actually Really Work!)

4. They have trouble prioritizing because they're overwhelmed or tired.

Too often, the pace or volume of demands on your time and attention overwhelms your brain’s ability to hold priorities clearly. Without clarity, needs and feelings can get very muddy, along with urgency and importance.

Once again, the door is open for poor self-editing or just feeling too tired to spend energy on finding the "right" words.

Firstly, just recognize that your brain is tired and pushing forward or forcing words will not be effective. Then, after a decent sleep, schedule some time to write down what you really need right now to be your best self. This may bring up multiple necessary conversations — tease them apart.

Stay focused on the outcomes of getting and staying more clear, speaking your needs, not in exasperation, but as a strategy for improved productivity and connection.

5. They've mentally checked out as a form of self-protection.

This one makes me sad, but too often, people have already played out the conversation in their heads with a negative outcome. So then there is no point in having it.

What’s sad is that these assumptions, (yes, sometimes based in predictability models from past experience), discount the possibilities of positive outcomes or opportunities.

This is self-protection at its worst — two smart people who want something different, but don’t know how to dance a different set of steps to get there. I’ve seen this in personal and professional relationships.

Even if the situation is beyond "fixing" there is value to an adult, respectful "closing" that allows both parties to process and learn.

Take a deep breath, repeat.

Now be honest with yourself. Have you shut down the path of possibility? Are you making assumptions that are not yours to make? (Even if they have a high probability?) Again, what is data? What is the story? What do you need?

Who do you want to be and what needs to be said to get there? Again, never hesitate to seek counsel — it can be very hard to "see the light" from the dark.

In a constantly changing and uncertain world, how can you learn to recognize more opportunities to use the power of your voice?

How can you gain confidence in discerning when to speak and when silence is actually the better choice?

And how can you learn to use your words to get your needs met to be your best self? This pursuit is not selfish–it’s accountability to getting what you need to serve, produce, connect, to add value to this world!

RELATED: 12 Attractive Things Strong, Confident Women Do Differently

Cynthia Ackrill leads stress and leadership workshops in many settings from coaching and leadership programs to women's conferences. Want to learn more strategies to tackle your stress and put more YOU in your future? Contact her or visit her courses and resources on her website.