There is a time to be silent and there is a time to speak out.
Think of a situation where you wanted to express an opinion but were afraid of the consequences. Maybe your senior leaders were espousing a business decision, people were expressing a political opinion, or you saw a social injustice and you adopted an overly cautious approach in your response.
After it was all over your wiser self told you “You should have spoken up”.
Let me say that sometimes discretion about speaking out is the better part of valor. In certain circumstances it would be unwise to “shoot your mouth”. I know, because I tend to go after sacred cows and get myself into hot water.
What was going on with your silence? Why did you opt for a muted or absent response when your voice should have really been heard? Here are some possibilities.
Your culture penalizes frankness.
“Question authority” is not the watchword in your organization. Some of your leaders have a huge ego investment in their position and don’t want to even hear the most balanced “devil’s” advocate.
Advice: Treat this situation like driving on black ice. Do it slowly, carefully, and diplomatically.
Your background muted your voice.
Maybe your family or culture of origin placed a high premium on conformity to the dominant position (usually by male leaders or parents). In such a situation it was easier to lose your voice.
Advice: Recognize that this may be a new day for you. Your leaders are not your parents. Your bosses want your input even if it goes against their stated position. Learn the skills of a devil’s advocate.
You gravitate to the old familiar censoring/abusing ways.
You really don’t have to habitually jump into the swamp with the alligators. There are better options for your life. Not everyone needs rescuing (codependency) and not every bully needs you for target practice.
Advice: Choose healthier work environments, friends, and partners.
So go ahead and have the courage of your convictions. Speak out in safer places where frankness will be rewarded and strong opinions will be reinforced.