Take A Step Back: 4 Situations When It’s Best To Be Silent

Identifying situations where it’s better to step back and listen can help improve relationships and resolve conflicts easier, says The Millennial Psychologist Riyan Portuguez.

There are many situations where speaking up and expressing our thoughts and feelings is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for others. However, there are also situations in which it’s better that we step back and just listen. 

Learning to identify these situations is valuable because it can make or break relationships and affect how conflicts are resolved. “There are times when speaking up will only make things worse,” agrees psychologist Riyan Portguez. “So always consider the context, mood, and environment before you say something.” 

“There are times when speaking up will only make things worse. So always consider the context, mood, and environment before you say anything.”

Riyan Portuguez, Psychologist

Riyan shares some situations when it’s best to keep your peace. 

  1. When you are physically unable to think clearly.

This happens when you are tired, drunk, or even hangry. “Couples always receive the advice that ‘You should never go to bed without fixing the problem,’ but I don’t agree with that statement all the time,” Riyan says. “This is because if you are tired, you will be more irritable, impatient, and have difficulty regulating your emotions. These increase the likelihood that you will say something that you will regret later.”

So rest, sleep on it, and discuss the conflict when you are in a better physical state.

  1. When you are feeling emotional. 

While there is anger that can and should be expressed right away regardless of the circumstances  — when you are being violated, for example — you should also be mindful of the times when you know that your rage will be uncontrollable and hurtful to others. “During these situations, it’s better to take a powerful pause,” Riyan advises. “Tell the other person that ‘I don’t think I can handle this situation well right now, I need some time off, we’ll discuss this when I’m in a better state of mind.’” This at least informs the other person that you are not brushing off their concerns and are still willing to resolve the conflict. 

Now, if the other person still demands a response from you, you need to put your foot down and stand your ground. “If they are being insistent, it only means that they are also experiencing heightened emotions; you cannot expect them to think clearly either,” Riyan explains. “So tell them firmly but politely that you do not want to engage with them when they are like that, that they also need to cool off if they want to have a productive conversation.”

  1. When you don’t know the whole story

If you are asked to weigh in on an issue that you are unfamiliar with, speculations on your part can do more harm than good if the issue is about something that will likely have a big impact on another person. For example, if someone is asking your opinion about which vaccine brand works best against COVID-19 but you are not a medical doctor, admit that your knowledge is limited instead of sharing rumors or unverified information. 

  1. When you are explicitly requested not to speak.

This can happen when someone needs to have a difficult conversation with you, or when they just need a listening ear as they unburden themselves. In such cases, resist the impulse to defend yourself or offer advice; instead just practice active listening. 

Being silent is not a sign of weakness; learning to control your reactions and identifying your battles takes maturity. “Before you say something, always go back to your intentions,” Riyan suggests. “Are you responding out of fear, insecurity, or hate? Or is it because of concern or love? Your answer will help determine when you should speak up and when you should stay quiet.”

MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available for teletherapy sessions 24/7 if you want to improve your communication skills, manage your emotions, or improve your relationships with loved ones or co-workers. Book a session now at

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