This is a guest post by Davis Nguyen.
You’re sitting in a meeting at work and an idea pops in your head. You debate whether or not you should share it with the rest of your group. Questions such as “what if they think it is stupid?” begin to circulate in your mind.
By the time you convince yourself to speak up, the topic has changed, or worse the meeting has ended. Your idea is never mentioned or heard from again. Has this ever happened to you?
It happens to a lot of people actually.
You’re sitting at a meeting and an idea enters into your head, but you begin to doubt yourself and the thought of raising your hand and speaking up snowballs into an avalanche of fear and doubt.
The reason why this happens to so many people is because of our natural fear of rejection. Humans are social creatures who want to be accepted by a group, not on the outside looking in. We fear that once we speak up and our idea turns out “bad” that our group will turn on us and even reject us.
I have lead many teams and organizations and I see the fear of rejection keep people from speaking up all the time. Many times, even close friends will come up to me in private and tell me they wish they had spoken up. The ideas they share with me are usually great and I know the group would have loved to have heard it.
If you are one of those people who have fear of rejection looming each time you want to speak, like I once did, you’ll find that there is a solution to your doubt.
When I was transitioning from wallflower to contributor, I used these three steps to ensure that my idea was heard.
What are these three steps?
1. Have the right mentality
Before I started public speaking and participating in organizations like Toastmasters, I was hesitant to raise my hand to talk or speak up in meetings because of the fear that I might be judged. Along the way (and dozens of public speaking gigs later), I realized that the audience and people around me all supported me and the other speakers. No one wants to see you fail. At a meeting room, your co-workers are supporting you. When you succeed, they do too.
Realize that you are sitting where you are for a reason. The people around you believe that you have something to contribute and add. Again, no one wants to see you fail.
Imagine the audiences that show up to hear speakers like John Saddington. Would people really spend $25-$50 just to hear him mess up and tweet about it? People really do want to know what you have to say. When you realize this fact, speaking up becomes a lot easier.
2. Be Ready to Speak (write down what you want to say)
If you are not naturally one to think on your feet, you have nothing to worry about as long as you have paper and a pen on hand. Start writing down your thoughts so when it is your turn to speak, you know exactly what you want to say.
Writing down your points also increases your clarity and reduces the chances of your rambling. It also helps when conversation topics quickly shifts. I know it helps me when I am in a meeting where the conversation topics are changing faster than Georgia’s weather.
If you don’t like to volunteer to speak on the spot, one thing you can do is approach the person leading the meeting and ask if you can have time to speak.
When one of my team members has an idea but isn’t one who wants to insert himself into a conversation, I will kindly make time next meeting for him to speak. This 1) ensure your idea will be heard and 2) commits you to speaking.
3. Be Prepared to Follow up
A mistake I see people make after speaking up is sitting back down; never to be heard from again. I see this in many people I’ve worked with. I applaud them for speaking up in the first place but wish they knew the golden opportunity they were leaving behind by not following up.
By following up, answering questions, and engaging in dialogue, you increase your influence around the room as someone who not only contributes to a meeting but also is willing to stand on a position.
I can’t say this enough – no one wants to see you fail and they want what is best for the group. If you can handle any follow-up comments confidently and eloquently, people will consider your idea or suggestion.
Next time you have an idea you want to share at a meeting or a suggestion you want to make within your group of friends, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, know what you want to say, and answer any questions/objections you encounter.
What prevents you from speaking up more often when you are in meetings or with friends? What would help you overcome those limiting beliefs?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Davis Nguyen is studying economics at Yale University. When he’s not solving for Nash Equilibriums, he’s helping introverts grow their confidence and communication skills. Receive a free eBook on how to turn Rejection into Success at Speak for the Meek today. @SpeakfortheMeek
PHOTO CREDIT: Highways Agency