Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Written by: Charneise Alston, M.Ed
Self-restraint is the act of controlling one’s impulses. Honestly, I did not develop this skill until my thirties. In the past, I have often allowed my ego to take center stage. Consequently, I would regularly be found defending my point of view amongst those with opposing opinions and beliefs. I would become so emotionally involved in my arguments that my physiological responses would visibly manifest in shaking, sweating, and sometimes dizziness. Yes, you heard me correctly. If someone adamantly spewed out what I believed to be wrong information, they could actually give me a headache.
I foolishly thought that the cause of my frustration was from people’s inability to see the error in their thinking. As arrogant as that sounds, do not act as if you have not encountered the person who is loudly wrong. For example, have you ever experienced someone giving out wrong directions and you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are hearing misinformation? Or, have you known someone to disguise incompetence with their “expertise” in something that you are well-versed in as they attempt to prove an invalid point? I commonly hear people argue about sports, religion, politics, race-relations, preferences in music, and hot-topics. The noise is distracting to others and too much energy has been wasted before realizing that you are engaging in an unproductive verbal exchange.
Self-restraint is an unnatural skill in which we must develop to combat our instinctual response to flex our ego. While self-expression is healthy, sometimes we become relentless in our attempt to persuade someone’s point of view. Individual differences in perception will prevent us from always seeing eye-to-eye. Couples, colleagues, teammates, friends, and neighbors are unnecessarily frustrated with each other when they feel like they are not on the same page. The fact of the matter is that you have to respect each other’s process. No one is going to interpret a message exactly as you. We all focus on different aspects of a message because our attention gravitates to what interest us, what is familiar to us, and what we deem as important. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
Although I love a healthy debate that evokes critical thinking, many times we are attempting to manipulate and convince rather than seeking to understand. Therefore, I suggest using discernment before getting pulled into draining conversations. Why? Simply because some people are naturally disagreeable and actually enjoy arguing as a sport. I refuse to disrupt my peace by falling into a verbal trap. What is the point of the conversation? Will the conversation lead to higher thinking? Most importantly, are you open to respect a different point of view?
Of course there is nothing wrong with “shooting-the-breeze” in casual conversation. Mindless chatter can sometimes be a therapeutic technique to help decompress from after an intense task. I am naturally a chatty person but I had to physically restrict myself from offering my unsolicited opinion. I would initially keep a bottle of water with me at all times and drink whenever I felt the urge to comment. Now, I can effortlessly keep quiet and not take things personal. I can disagree without being offended or offensive. When you endeavor to intentionally mind your business, you will discover an unlimited supply of inner-peace.
The practice of self-restraint has disciplined my response and reshaped my outlook. Take agency over your actions, thoughts, and emotions. Stop trying to change, convince, or coerce others for your own benefit. The verbal tug-a-war of worthless conversations can be stressful. Can you elevate or expand the conversation? If not, tap into your inner power to refrain from engaging in empty dialogue. The time is now to reclaim your peace.
“I have never entered into any controversy in defense of my philosophical opinions; I leave them to take their chance in the world. If they are right, truth and experience will support them; if wrong, they ought to be refuted and rejected. Disputes are apt to sour one’s temper and disturb one’s quiet.”