I know that you’ve often felt like the only one in the room who thinks that the decision the team is about to make will lead to a train crash. I’ve been there, and I know how insanely frustrating it can be, but please please please try not to let that weigh you down.
I’ve been surrounded by many talented yet agreeable men and women throughout my career and often found myself in situations in which I’ve felt like the only person in the room with a different perspective on a subject. However, the more that I’ve matured professionally, opened up and shared with mentors and trusted colleagues and reflected on my own experiences, the more I’ve come to realize that this notion – that I’m the only one at the table with a thought that goes against the grain – is FAR from the truth.
I’ve learned that many people have shared my sentiments about a topic, but myriad reasons, including a strong internal culture of consensus, time in the company, built-in rewards for being a ‘good team player’, and hierarchy, amplify the perceived risk associated with speaking up.. and this (both the perceived risk and the fear) only intensifies as you advance in your career. So, I fully understand what’s at stake. I 1000% get it.
Now forget yourself for a second. Because when the risk is attached to oneself, or an individual, if feels personal, it makes things super scary. So, let’s think about the challenge in a different way. Let’s spin it and attach the risk to the business. What would be the risk to the business of NOT speaking up? For an indication of how disastrous things could turn out when a voice of reason is not heard or is ignored, think back to the many corporate faux pas of the last decade. Remember Dove’s borderline racist 2017 marketing campaign? That sure was awful!
Life is too short to assume that someone else will raise that red flag, or speak up in vehement support of something good.
If your gut is telling you to do or say something that you believe is right, don’t wait. Don’t wait to be inspired by someone else if no one else around is leading the charge. Be your own inspiration and do it yourself.
Some Suggestions on Questions to Ask When You Want to Speak Up
- Wait, why is this important for us to pursue?
- Don’t we already know the answer to this question since we addressed the problem last year?
- I know that so-and-so asked for this, but what would you do if it were your business to run?
As long as it is coming from a place of genuine desire to do good and you introduce your POV respectfully and with authenticity, you’re off to a great start. And if the worst thing that happens is that the conversation continues without taking your POV into consideration, then that’s not bad at all. Don’t be deterred, keep speaking up, maybe try different approaches to getting your point across, ask trusted colleagues in the room for feedback and you’ll find out that your persistence starts to convert some folks and more people listen to you.
These are my thoughts, and I’m no expert. So if you’re looking for more tried-and-true advice on HOW to speak so that people want to listen to you once you’ve gotten the courage to use your voice for good, I’d encourage you to check out this TED Talk by Communication Expert Julian Treasure called How to speak so that people want to listen.
Please feel free to share your thoughts below – either to give feedback on the post or to pass along insights from your own experiences – and best of luck to everyone who’s trying to get their voices heard in the spaces in which they deserve to be heard.