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A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether to say it or not.

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Not everything we think needs to be said. I know for me, there have been things I have said in a moment of anger that I wish I could take back. There are also things I wish I had had the courage to say but didn’t.

It can be difficult knowing when you should speak up and say something. So how can we get better at discerning when we should speak up, and when we should remain silent?

When to Speak Up

1. When you want to be heard or someone has hurt your feelings. It is okay to stand up and vocalize when you feel hurt and tell the person that they harmed you. It’s also important to speak up when you want to say something valuable or express a concern you have.

2. If someone asks for your advice or opinion. I am a helper by nature, and I always want to give advice to others and help them solve their problem. But I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is be supportive and let them know that if they need anything, I am here. I let them come to me and ask what they should do before giving my opinion…and it can be hard at times, especially when they are obviously suffering.

3. If you see something being done that is wrong and can hurt others. You might be the only person to see it and do something about it.

4. When other people don’t have a voice. I think this goes without saying, but if you see a child or vulnerable adult be mistreated, you might be the only person who can protect them from further harm.

When to Remain Silent

1. When you are uncertain what you feel, what you want to say or if you are angry. Blurting out what you are feeling in the moment might not reflect how you truly feel overall. This could make things even more confusing. And if you were hurtful with what you said, that can cause more lasting damage in the long term.

2. If someone is sharing a story with you. For some of us, telling our story means mustering up courage and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with someone else. While you might be tempted to interject to show the person that you understand what they are saying, sometimes just silently listening and nodding your head is what really makes them feel heard.

3. If someone isn’t in a position to receive what you have to say. Perhaps your friend just needs someone to listen right now and doesn’t need the advice you desperately want to give her. Or maybe they just aren’t ready to face the hard truth

4. When the conversation has dissolved into a fool’s argument. Some disagreements will never be resolved, and it is best to just agree to disagree and disengage.

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