By LaPora Lindsey
For a long time, I felt that using my voice and speaking my mind was a negative thing. I thought that being direct, honest, and assertive with certain people meant that I was being rude. I thought my ability to be honest wasn’t as important as whatever the other person was telling me.
But I have learned that’s not the case, there are many ways to activate your voice and speak up at work effectively when you have something important to say at work. I want to share 4 simple tips that can help you.
Speaking up in meetings, when you need something at work, with your friends, and even your family is important for getting respect and making sure people hear what you have to say. Communicating effectively can be tough if a person isn’t used to it. Here are some tips on how to speak in different situations:
If you’re in front of a group of people who feel comfortable talking but you don’t, get their attention before speaking. You can say: “I’d like to add something.” Or raise your hand and say “Excuse me.”
When someone interrupts you as you’re speaking, stay calm and acknowledge that attempt, then continue by saying what you were trying to say. For example, ” I am sure you have ideas, however, I would like to finish my statement.” or “You said I’m wrong about this…I think my idea works best because…”
Say what you want straight away instead of beating around the bush. Instead of saying “Maybe we could…” or “It might work better if…” try using “I want to do this” or “I think doing that would help us reach our goal faster”.
Learn what makes you uncomfortable.
Some discomfort comes from within when you doubt yourself and second-guess what you say. To combat this, first recognize your body language—how you stand or sit can have a big impact on how you’re feeling. The more open your posture is, the less restricted you’ll feel. Then, think about what to say before you speak and practice saying it out loud. Knowing exactly what to say will help take away any fear of blurting out something weird or unexpected.
Find an ally that can help you speak up.
One way to build your confidence speaking up is to find an ally. Your ally could be a friend, or someone you work with, who also struggles with speaking up. Or they could be extremely effective in speaking up. Either way you two, can provide support and empathy as you go through this process together. Similarly, you can prepare yourself for a difficult conversation by practicing with your ally beforehand.
This can also be helpful if your workplace does not have an established culture of listening to people’s ideas. If this is the case, connecting with someone who is senior in your organization can help you navigate the cultural norms at play.
Learn to use your silence to your advantage.
In some situations, it will be best to speak up. In others, it may be better to keep quiet.
In the moment that you’re being challenged by someone else, don’t just jump up and start shouting your answer back at them. Take a breath, calmly consider what they’ve said, and think about how you can respond in a way that will help you make your point with fewer words.
You might even find yourself in a situation where you can use silence to your advantage. It can show that you’re listening or give you time to think before speaking. Yelling over someone is rarely effective—and often makes the situation worse—so use silence as a tool when appropriate.
You can speak your mind and still see the other person’s perspective.
You can be direct without being rude.
You can be honest and intend not to offend (though I can’t guarantee you won’t offend).
And you can be assertive and not be aggressive.
Your voice deserves to be heard in the workplace, what you have to say is important. Don’t your silence your contribution.
Need some support?
If recognize where you are now in your career and want to create an action plan of change for the future that includes you speaking up, I would be honored to be a part of that journey. Schedule a time to see how I can help you in your career.