Why you don’t speak up
You are meeting with your team. Everything is going okay, really. Except you have this running dialogue in your head…that sounds like this:
Your peers have such great things to say. They’re all so brilliant. How the heck are you supposed to compete with that?
Or perhaps more like this:
Oh wow, I totally disagree with what’s been said here. I should say something. Ugh. But what if I’m wrong? They may all just roll their eyes at me…I’m sure there’s a good reason no one is thinking about it like I am, right? Why can’t I just say something??
And then, that dreaded moment.
Your boss turns to you and said, “So, what do you think?”
How’s your opportunity to shine. To be heard. To demonstrate how brilliant you are. Or that you’re a complete fraud. One of the two will surely happen here. And so you open your mouth, and instead of wowing them with a thought-provoking counter-point demonstrating your disagreement, and offering them a stupendous solution they should consider instead, all that comes out is a small, meek sounding voice that goes, “yeah…nothing to add here.”
And the conversation continues forward. But all you’re left with is this voice inside your head screaming at you for not speaking up. AGAIN. And that becomes who you are and how you define yourself.
As the person who doesn’t speak up.
But you have a voice. And you have something to say. And your opinion matters. So how do you get yourself out of this silent choke-hold?
It would be easy for me to say. Well, you just speak up already!.
But my guess is, if that’s all it took – you’d be doing it now. But you’re not. So what’s really going on here?
The reason you’re not speaking up is because of what you think is going to happen when you do.
You likely think it’s because of what the other people – maybe your boss especially – are going to think of you because of what you say. So instead of saying anything with even the slightest hint of disagreement, you say nothing at all.
Somehow, your brain has convinced you that silence is the safer option. So it works tirelessly away at making this the option you choose – every time. By reminding you of all the terrible things that will happen if you speak up. And you hear your brain, and you remain silent.
But the reality of it is – silence is not the safer option. Because now instead of judging yourself for saying something you regret saying, you’re just judging yourself for not saying anything at all. Which still sucks. Only now you haven’t said anything – so you, and your team, are no farther along. And all are deprived of your opinion. Which matters.
You think the worst that could happen is what your boss or peers will think of you for what you said.
But you’re wrong. The worst that could happen is how you will feel because of what you think they’re thinking. But that feeling you’re working so hard to avoid – is optional. Because instead of beating yourself up for saying something that doesn’t come out how you want it to- you could praise yourself for actually saying something for once.
To help yourself speak up, don’t go for perfection.
Go for saying something – ANYTHING. Even if it comes out like word vomit and hardly makes any sense- that’s better than not even trying. Because you are showing yourself that you have something to say. You have an opinion. And it matters. And by speaking up, you are honoring your own voice. And the more you do it, the easier it will feel. So praise yourself for doing it. Instead of judging yourself for not being perfect when you do. Make the threshold of success so low, that you’re willing to try it out. Because you deserve to be heard. And your team needs to hear what you have to say. Even if it doesn’t come out exactly as you think it ‘should’.
So drop the judgment. And thank yourself for trying – for finally saying something. And tell yourself that you are someone who speaks up now. Even when it’s hard.