5 Ways To Find The Confidence To Speak Up About Hard Things

A lot of questionable decision making happens in one’s 20’s, and I try to issue forgiveness to my 20’s-era self. However, I still shudder when I think about an incident when – after an outing at a Boston bar with friends – I got into the car of someone who definitely shouldn’t have been driving. Reflecting back, I think three factors were in play: 1) laziness (public transit and cabs are abundant in Boston so, yeah, laziness), 2) cheapness (I was a poor research assistant), and 3) confidence (I didn't know the driver well and probably didn’t want to seem like a jerk). It was a harrowing ride home and we were really, really lucky that no one got hurt.

Given #3 above, I was interested to see Responsibility.org’s recent survey results on impaired driving; in particular, the result that 19% of adults don’t feel confident to help someone get home safely. A deeper dive into the results indicates that when asked what information, tools, or tactics would help people feel more confident, the results were: 57% said knowing how to ensure someone has a safe ride, 51% said how to recognize the signs of impairment, 37% said understanding how much alcohol it takes to reach the legal limit for driving, 27% said how long it takes to sober up, and 18% said how drugs (prescription and illegal drugs) interact with alcohol.

While these results make sense, it seems that there are also deeper issues that contribute to lack of confidence. So today I wanted to share 5 ways to you find the confidence to speak up about hard things -- whether that's impaired driving or, well, anything else.

1. Compare your issues against reality. We all have issues. I get it. My issue at the time of my harrowing ride home was that I didn’t want to look like a jerk. Being silent was easier. Sort of. Actually, not really. The reality was that I wasn’t that close to the driver so what did it matter if he thought I was a jerk? Not to mention that speaking up would have saved everyone in the car emotional distress, and reduced our odds of injuring ourselves and other people.

2. Trust your gut. As I mentioned, being informed is a good thing (Responsibility.org has a Virtual Bar to help you learn how alcohol affects your individual BAC) but trusting your gut is also hugely important. If your gut even whispers that someone shouldn’t get behind the wheel, follow that instinct and speak up.

3. Think about parallels where you are confident. As I was thinking about impaired driving, I immediately thought about the ire I feel when it comes to cell phones and driving. I walk Violet to school every day along a busy road and I am repeatedly shocked by how many people are looking down at their phones while in full motion (and subsequently nearly run us over). I have no problem speaking up about it, whether that's literally waving my arms and yelling at a distracted driver, or advocating for civic action. When you’re faced with situations (impaired driving or otherwise) where you’re feeling less confident about speaking up, conjure those parallel situations where you are confident. Remember you can do it!

4. Own your role in the system. One thing I have learned over the years is that we're all part of a system – everything we do impacts other people, whether that’s within our household or in our community. Find confidence in the reality that by speaking up you are helping everyone.

5. Remember how awesome bravery is. I recently did an Edit Your Life interview with Erin Dullea (episode 15) about taking dares and being brave. It inspired me to challenge myself to speak up about something very difficult with one of my family members. It was hard to muster the courage, but the emotional weight that lifted afterwards reminded me of how awesome it is to be brave and speak up. When you're brave, you won't be left with nagging regrets.

So please, please, please wonderful community – let’s act together! I hope this post will help you find the confidence to speak up, whether it’s about impaired driving or anything else you’re struggling with in life.

Disclosure: This post was inspired by my work as part of Responsibility.org’s#TalkEarly. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.

Image credit: Pixabay

FamilyChristine KohComment