Learning to bear other people’s judgement

If you say things that matter, and you say them loud enough to be heard:

Many people will judge you. No matter how you phrase things. No matter how hard you try to do things right. No matter how much you get right. Judgement is unavoidable.

Some people will think you suck. No matter how good you are.

Some people will be mean to you.

It will hurt. It will not be possible to grow a skin so thick that you never feel it.

And: The pain of being judged is bearable. You can’t avoid it all the way, but you can learn to bear it.

And: It’s so, so worth it. Being judged and hurt is not the only thing that will happen. Really good things happen too.

When you speak up loud enough to be heard:

Many people will listen to you.

Many people will respect you.

People will also learn from you, and you will learn from them.

People will respond in ways that teach you things you never knew before, and that you never could have learned any other way.

You will be able to meet fellow travelers, and make all kinds of new connections.

Learning to bear being judged is part of learning to speak up and be heard. It’s hard, and it hurts, and it’s completely worth it. In the long run, it’s far, far less painful than hiding and being silent. 

Shutting up won’t get you heard

Tone is important. When you say things the right way, it can increase the number of people who are willing to listen to you. 

But that only goes so far. No matter how good you are at framing things, some things that need to be said will upset people who feel entitled to be comfortable. And, when you upset people who feel entitled to comfort, they will lash out at you. This is not your fault; it is theirs. Tone has its limits.

Also, getting tone right is really hard. No one starts out good at tone; it’s a very difficult skill that you can only learn with practice. And the only way to get practice is to spend a lot of time talking to people about controversial things. Which means that, in order to get good at tone, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time talking about these things while you’re still bad at tone. 

People who mean well and genuinely want you to be heard understand this, and will encourage you to keep speaking up and keep working on your skills at speaking up effectively. People who want you to shut up about the things you’re talking about will try to make you feel horrible about your tone and convince you that your tone means you have no right to say anything.

Sometimes, when people say that you should be more careful about tone so that you can be heard, what they really mean is “I don’t want to hear that, shut up and say something else I’m willing to listen to”.

Don’t believe those people, and don’t shut up. The most important thing is to keep talking. If you are bad at tone, some people will refuse to hear you. If you are good at tone, some people will still refuse to hear you. If you say nothing for fear of getting the tone wrong, no one will hear you.

Shutting up won’t get you heard. Speaking up might.