In 1923 Rudyard Kipling addressed the Royal College of Surgeons in London. In that famous speech (which most physicians today really need to read) Kipling said the following:

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. Not only do words infect, egotise, narcotise, and paralyse, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain …

Kipling understood the immense power of words to influence and change mind and body. Just like drugs.

At the time Kipling spoke, another leader was on the way to power. Adolf Hitler also understood the extraordinary power of words, using hypnotic language to persuade an entire culture toward hatred, war and the willingness to look the other way.

Words so often are the source of hope and healing, as well as destruction and death. Consider the timeless words, spoken thousands of years ago, that still ring in our hearts and minds today: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

These words, often attributed to Jesus, are responsible for stirring the conscience of countless millions.

Words can destroy. Words can heal.

Unspoken words can lead to misery and pain

Words retain their power even when they remain unspoken. Because the meaning packaged in words can alter anyone’s life in an instant, you need to be thoughtful about how you communicate. Refusing to express yourself through words, however, can create a burden on your psyche from which there is little relief.

Your unspoken message rings in your own soul as long as it is unexpressed. If that message is one of pain, then you suffer in isolated misery. However, because words have consequences, it’s remains a dilemma for many: To speak or not to speak?

You should learn to speak up, and do it with maturity and care.

Here are six reasons to speak up and four resources you’ll need to do so:

1. Unexpressed words make room for evil and wrongdoing

As long as you withhold, you are essentially consenting to whatever is going on. When you disagree, but remain silent, you may portray yourself as one who agrees. When others do wrong and you say nothing, you are colluding with the wrongdoer. When you are the one being mistreated, you mistreat yourself by not speaking up. Countless millions allow themselves to be used or taken advantage of in this way.

2. Unspoken words cause old wounds to fester

Old hurts fester when they are kept inside and words are the vehicle that transports those wounds out of your mind and body. Keeping your feelings inside is just that – trapping them in your body. Words are perhaps the best way to express feelings, putting them into the stream of social consciousness so that they can be sorted and dealt with.

3. Remaining silent: A one-way ticket to loneliness

Words enable connection like nothing else. When you withhold your words, you refuse to allow others a
chance to agree, disagree, support or withdraw from you. You may think you’d rather not risk others disagreeing, withdrawing or even rejecting you. However, as you reduce your risk of being rejected, you also eliminate the possibility of being accepted. The end result is loneliness. Nobody knows who you are.

4. Silence keeps you trapped in bad situations

Many are suffering poor treatment by others simply because they will not speak up. So often, when someone knows you are unhappy, he or she will change the circumstances for you so that you can get relief. This is not always the case, but if you never speak up, you’ll never know.

5. Unspoken words create emotional distance
If you’re feeling ill toward another person and you don’t let them know, you’ll likely keep your ill feelings and begin to act differently toward the other. Your actions will betray your silence, of course, and possibly lead to passive aggressive behaviour on your part.

6. Staying silent can be selfish

Not participating in conversation, opening up and sharing yourself is self-centered. Of course, you may have a history of being hurt because you spoke up at one time. Even so, remaining silent is not the solution, as it prevents you from joining in with others who would like to hear what you have to say.

Four things you’ll need to discover your unique voice

Finding your voice will change your life. If you don’t believe you have the right or the confidence to speak up when you know you should, you’ll suffer. If you resolve to develop confidence, you’ll change through your words. Learning to speak your mind may involve:

1. Courage

It may all boil down to having the courage to confront the issue. It takes time to find your voice, and courage is the fuel you’ll need to sustain you. Of course, when you begin to reap the rewards that your unique voice has to offer, you will no longer need courage. Speaking up will be the obvious choice.

2. Good communication skills

Learning how to deliver your words with rapport, sympathy and clarity.

3. Letting go of old hurts

You may have unfinished business from the past that affects your present life. Learning to let go of these memories and emotions that still drive you is critical to freeing yourself. It can be done, but you may need help.

4. Self-control

Some people don’t speak up because if they did, they might lose control of their emotions. They don’t want to fly into a rage or sink into pain or despair that may never end. Learning to manage emotions – not fear them – is the key. This requires experience, education and practice in a safe environment.