You’re passionate about your work. You have loads of ideas. You have a burning desire to make an impact… yet sometimes you might be hesitant to share your thoughts, or when you do they land with a thud. Here are six approaches that will help you speak up and be heard:
1. Know that what you have to say is valuable.
You may lack confidence when it comes to contributing, thinking that you don’t have anything valuable to say or might make a mistake. Change your internal dialogue. Instead of asking “who am I to speak up?” ask “how will people benefit when I do speak up?”
You can always be a work in progress when it comes to sharpening the value of your contributions to a meeting or conversation. Pay attention to information or perspectives you have that can help make business processes or the team’s culture better. Develop an inner thought process where you notice opportunities to learn and form better shares in meetings.
Ask yourself as you go through your days : What do I think about this issue? If I were the leader what would I do? How can I suggest making this better? Remember, you are being paid to bring your knowledge, your know-how and your perspective. Whether they state it overtly or not, other people want to hear from you.
2. Find a way to feel ‘psychologically safe.’
Whether or not you feel comfortable speaking up has to do both with how you feel as well as your company or community’s culture. Some environments have a psychologically-safe culture. This is a term coined by Amy Edmondson, and refers to a culture where you are encouraged to speak up and your contributions are seen as part of a process of learning. In this kind of culture, you are supported to speak up because mistakes are welcomed.
Alternatively, you may experience a culture that is dismissive, suppresses your voice, and makes it hard for you to speak up. What’s important here is not to take any negative responses personally. The leaders responsible are not doing their job to make the environment safe. If this is the case, you may not get direct input from others. Find someone outside of the toxicity who can help you meet your needs. And find a way to share your ideas anyway. Try to find the strength to not take dismissals in meetings personally, or share your ideas in a different format, like a direct email to your manager, or a group discussion in which you’ve led a few of your peers to put together a document.
3. Say what you have to say in a way that others can hear.
Once you’ve identified your idea and the level of safety in the environment, it’s time to decide how you will deliver your message.
Above all, be concise. Make it easy for your listener to follow the journey you are taking them on by providing them with a roadmap – organize your thoughts into a first, second, and third point. We have a tendency to add filler information when we are worried about the response we may receive. If you’ve already ‘hit oil’ in the point you are trying to make, there’s no need to drill further. Once you’ve made your point, take an intentional pause. Look at the faces of those listening in order to get a sense of how they are receiving your words. Help them digest the important points you’ve already made before going on to add more.
4. Share your idea as a story.
Tell a story that illustrates the idea in action to help your listener follow along. People are riveted by a good story; it reminds us of storytime when we were children and it helps them see themselves in it. I have a story that I tell from a stage about how I sabotaged myself at the moment of my biggest early career opportunity. Even when I give a 90-minute-speech chock full of ‘actionable tools the women in the audience can use right away,’ the thing that audience members tell me the most is they will never forget that story! Create a headline and add the justification for your idea to bring it to life. Showcase how a client, customer or end-user would benefit from your idea. It’s like you are creating a movie in the mind of your listener.
5. Identify the “why” for both sides.
You have probably thought a lot about what you want and why you want it. You may have rehearsed your justification in your head or aloud to friends. Think about why your decision maker would want to say yes to your idea. Always identify: What’s In It For Them – what I call, the WIIFT.
People can become overwhelmed by their own agenda. If you want to unlock someone else’s energies, you have to help them see that supporting what you want will also help them get more of what they want.
This could be what they want in terms of a business outcome, or what they want relative to their personal motivations.
6. Share your powerful truth.
If there is something that has been on the tip of your tongue, then say it!
Is there something that you stand for, something that you feel deep inside that you know to be just and truthful, for you and for others? If so, this is your powerful truth. Maybe it’s that you won’t stand to be treated a certain way anymore. Maybe it’s that the company needs to take a look at how its culture or its actions are not supportive to its employees or its clients. When you have a truth that is honest and authentic, you don’t need outside validation. When you share it, people are compelled to pay attention to you, and it makes them examine themselves too. In addition, honesty calms our nervous system and makes us feel we have permission to be real.
It’s time you speak up and be heard so you can bring the value you have to others.