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It’s not always easy to find the words when you don’t know what the reaction will be, but just how much do we avoid speaking up? According to research, 72% of employees admit they do not speak up when they feel they should.
Whether you were taught at an early age not to rock the boat or appear rude, or whether you’re afraid of another’s reaction to a difficult or awkward conversation, there are many reasons we may not be willing to have our voices heard – but have you considered what the cost of not speaking up could be?
Staying silent when you need to speak is not just undermining your personal and professional relationships and opportunities – it can cause harm to your health and well-being.
Here are 4 reasons why speaking up is so important and how you can use your voice to create greater happiness and success for you and those around you:
Fear is one of the biggest reasons we use when choosing to hold back our voice: fear of failure, ridicule, rejection, conflict or confrontation. Sometimes it’s even fears of succeeding – standing out and being recognized positively can be just as uncomfortable for some.
But what is fear really? The only time we fear something is when we don’t have all the information and think we will get caught off-guard. Rather than challenge our fears, we usually start to imagine the worst-case scenarios. If you would like to go beyond the fears and stories that stop you, first ask some different questions and shift your mindset: instead of thinking about what you might lose from speaking up, have you ever wondered what you might gain?
Rather than fixate on the worst that could happen, flip that point of view on its head and ask: If I choose to speak up, what contribution could this be and what possibility could it create?
If you don’t feel you have all the information required to speak up, don’t stop yourself there. Ask a question, like: Who can I talk to, where can I go and what questions can I ask to gain more clarity or information about this?
Do you truly desire to create and innovate? Then you have to be willing to speak up (and listen) with an ongoing sense of curiosity, not judgment or expectation. Nothing kills creativity faster than approaching an interaction from the view of good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, positive vs. negative. When you are curious, you can see all perspectives and ideas as interesting and different, without putting a value judgment ahead of time or dismissing certain ideas because they don’t match your expectation of how things should be. By going to curiosity instead of judgment, you allow for much easier and open communication.
Speaking up isn’t about having all the answers. It is actually the questions you are willing to ask that can open doors to true innovation and creativity. What if you never again had to come up with the right thing to say, at the right time, in the right way?
Use questions like these to stimulate creative conversation and communication:
If you are still catching yourself trying to figure out what to say to someone, try asking:
What have you decided you have to be like, sound like and act like in order to climb the social or professional ladder? We can tend to look to the people around us and mimic how they act and communicate, thinking that’s how we have to be in order to be successful or be seen and heard in that environment.
Speaking up authentically as you and not trying to be like others is what makes you different and unique. If you honor your difference and allow your true voice to come forward, it is not only a lot less effort, you will tend to have more confidence and resilience, because you are being true to you.
Don’t doubt your value and contribution. If you catch yourself thinking that perhaps you are too inexperienced or don’t know enough, stop and and ask: What do I know here that would help resolve this or contribute?
Never underestimate a fresh or “outsider” perspective, or assume you don’t know anything valuable, or that others must know more than you – you may surprise yourself with the ideas and solutions stored away in your unconscious that can open unexpected doors that others don’t see.
Your body also has a voice of its own – and when something isn’t working, it will let you know! If you are bottling up important thoughts, internalizing, or holding back on saying what you need to say, it can create a lot of tension, stress, and emotional imbalance. These mental and emotional stressors can build up like toxins within the body and lead to fatigue, pain and illness. Your body is directly impacted when you hold back from saying what truly matters to you, so it is important to honor you and your body and look at what else is possible:
We damage our emotional and physical wellbeing anytime we decide that we don’t have the choice or power to speak out. You always have a choice – and you always have a voice. Are you willing to use your voice to create more for you and your body?
Having your voice in the world is one of the most empowering choices and commitments you can make. When you are willing to speak up without judgment of you or anyone else, when you are willing to be curious, ask questions and contribute your unique perspectives, you will become the inspiration and invitation for others to do the same. Your voice could be exactly what the world needs to hear right now – is now the time to speak up and find out?
Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock is a life and communication coach, management and professional services consultant, and facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs including Right Voice for You and Being You. Laleh has inspired and empowered hundreds of thousands of individuals and families including Fortune 500 executives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, athletes and veterans. A lifelong entrepreneur and passionate change-agent, Laleh strives to seek out possibility in every problem and aims to facilitate strategic change and optimal growth for all her clients. Through her organization, Global Wellness for All, Laleh inspires individuals to create wellness in all areas of their life and seek greater success. Follow Laleh on Instagram and Facebook.