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Why Don't We Speak Up?

By Karen Wright

Recently I began working as a waitress at a local restaurant. For now, this path is giving me a singular opportunity to experience some very common, and not so effective, human behaviors. (Effective meaning 'doing that gets you what you want.') Let me tell you of one that still baffles me...

I delivered the requested lunch to a couple the other day and over the next 30 minutes I checked in on how they were doing... if there was anything I could do for them. Their answer was always, "No, we're fine."

When I noticed their napkins lying on top of their plates I figured it signaled their readiness to settle the check. When I stopped by to deliver their bill I noticed that they'd eaten very little of their meals. I asked if everything was okay and they told me, "No." I asked what was wrong and they told me one meal had been delivered cold and the other wasn't what the person had ordered.

I apologized and asked if I could make it right in some way and they replied, sternly, "NO!" So, I gathered up their still-full plates as they, without any eye contact, began to ready themselves to pay and leave. Naturally, the tip was nearly nothing.

When a similar situation happened a few weeks later, I asked the patrons why they hadn't spoken up earlier so we could have made it right. They had no reply, just sullen demeanors. I got to thinking of this in relation to other instances in which I've seen people not speak up when an expectation was not met, but engage fully in laying blame after a remedy would be too late. Why? Why don't we speak up when what we want is not what we're getting?

What is there about playing the victim that seems so satisfying? In any of the restaurant situations I've experienced, the problem could have easily and quickly been resolved IF I'd known there WAS a problem. But, instead of asking for what they really wanted, these particular patrons chose to keep silent, get upset and then blame me and the cook for mistreating them.

What is there about being in the position of receiving that makes us so passive when it comes to the quality of what we're receiving? I remember trying out a new hair stylist a few years back. She asked me what I liked and I felt I told her sufficiently. But, the cut I got and the style she created was one that I did not like at all. When she was done and asked how I liked it I remember saying something like, "It's fine." I left swearing to never return and feeling that I'd wasted my money. I never gave her the chance to make it right. I never gave her feedback that would help her know how to satisfy me.

In these instances it seems that we expect others to automatically know what will make us happy and when we don't get what we want we blame them for being negligent. Call it The Mind Reader Syndrome. Maybe you've played that with someone you know? You hold an unstated expectation then feel cheated when they don't deliver.

Expecting the world to read your mind is one thing, but not speaking up can also indicate a deeper fundamental lack of confidence in your own judgment. For example, a few weeks ago two participants at a James Ray retreat died in a group sweat lodge experience. Several others were admitted to the hospital with serious injuries from prolonged exposure to the heat. I was not there, but I can imagine what might have been going through my mind as I felt my core body temperature increasing, my heart racing, and the dehydration dizziness. I might have thought, "What in the world am I doing? This isn't right."

But, after 4 days of hearing that my own self-imposed limitations were what was stopping me from feeling true joy and experiencing a full life, I might have begun to distrust my own instincts. So, sitting there in that lodge, feeling the pressure of group expectations, it's likely that I might have done what others did... trusted someone else to know more about what was good for me than my own inner wisdom. I might have turned over my will to someone I trusted - a guru. Even as my body and mind were screaming at me to get out.

This is a very different type of victim-hood. In our restaurant example, people's behavior was arrogant and manipulative - even passive aggressive. In the retreat example they traded their own personal wisdom for the directives of a proclaimed leader. They didn't trust their own judgment.

But, both cases have a common underlying issue. Deep inside there is often an unspoken, and even unconscious, unworthiness. Unworthy to get what we really want. Unworthy to trust in ourselves more than a stranger.

This unworthiness factor has plagued human beings for all time. Few of us will admit to it openly. Many of us will completely deny its existence. (By the way, the ones who deny it most adamantly are the ones who are most insecure.) Whether we adopted unworthiness from parents who never seemed satisfied by anything we did or it stemmed from a core anxiety that others are better and know more than we do, each one of us must turn and face this malicious lie.

You are the most magnificent creation in all of creation. You are eternally strong, innately joyful, and wondrously worthy. Life rejoices with each breath you take. You deserve and are entitled to all goodness. Your abundance does not steal from anyone else's - there is enough of every good thing for every being.

Don't doubt your instincts and wisdom. They are your guides in life. No one knows better than you what is good for you. To ask for what you want is no crime. If what you want brings you true joy, that joy enlivens us all. Allow others who serve you to do so exceptionally well - even if it means granting a second chance. We all deserve generosity. Be happy and grateful. Life is better than we often give it credit for.

Karen is author of The Sequoia Seed: Remembering the Truth of Who You Are, a great read for anyone who is seeking understanding or guidance, inspiration or clarity in his or her life.
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