Speaking up can be scary. Whether it’s talking to your boss, family, friend, or partner, communicating clearly about a big issue sounds daunting. The alternative, of course, is to say nothing at all, but that won’t be helpful. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and demand to be heard, especially if it’s a sensitive issue. Next time you have something important to discuss, keep these steps in mind:
Identify your fear: Don’t repress or deny it. What’s really bothering you? If you’re feeling nervous, that’s normal. Know that you can move forward even if you’re afraid. The fear, in fact, can make you stronger. When you feel afraid, it shows that you’re stepping outside your comfort zone, which is healthy for growth.
Think about the listener: Take inventory of how you really feel about the person you’ll be talking to. If you really care about them, you’ll want to evolve the relationship rather than dismiss it. List some possible reactions they might have and think of ways to address those statements.
Role play: Practice having the conversation with someone else to make you more comfortable. Prepare responses to any arguments you think the person might have. Watch what they do. Are they trying to argue with you or do they agree with what you said? Whatever they do, respond to them in the moment.
The real approach: Now that you are prepared, engage with the person you need to address. As you have these tough conversations, you’ll be more equipped to speak up when you need to with other sensitive issues. Endorse yourself for having the courage to address the issue.
Listen: Once you have said all you have to say, be receptive of the other person. Pay close attention to their response and don’t get defensive. Did your preparation help? Though it’s important to prepare what you have to say, addressing the situation with an open mind and really hearing what the other person has to say will make the tough conversation easier for you both.
– Barbara Bent