If you’re like the majority of working professionals, you’re shy about voicing your opinion. You might deliberately avoid situations where participation is mandatory, remain silent in group discussions, or simply say what you think people want you to say rather than telling them what you really think. This seems like a safer strategy, but in reality, voicing your opinion is an important and powerful way to command more respect and earn a higher position for yourself.
There are some key strategies you can use to overcome your apprehensions and make a better impression when speaking your mind, but first, let’s take a look at the benefits of speaking your mind.
Why You Need to Speak Up More Often
As a general rule, it’s better to speak your mind—honestly—than to remain silent or tell people only what they want to hear. These are just some of the reasons why:
· You’ll seem more sincere. If you want to build trust in the workplace, you have to seem sincere, and the best way to “seem” sincere is to actually be sincere. If you consistently speak your mind, even if you disagree, people will start trusting you more on a personal and professional level.
· You’ll have a better chance at getting what you want. If there’s something you want to change, voicing your opinion is the only way to make progress toward actually changing it. Whether you’re negotiating yourself or on behalf of a client.
· You’ll seem confident and bolder. This will help you earn more respect in the office, which in turn will lend even more power to your future contributions.
· More opinions lead to better decisions (and results). Generally speaking, the addition of more perspectives and opinions will help good ideas grow better (and weed out bad ideas faster). Be a part of this contributory process.
· You’ll feel more content. Expressing your mind feels good, even if you don’t always get the results you want. You’ll regret not saying anything far more than you’ll regret saying something.
Yes, there’s the possibility that people will disagree with you, or that you’ll ruffle some feathers along the way, but most of these benefits are agnostic on whether or not your opinion is accepted or acted upon.
Strategies for Success
These strategies are designed to help you feel more comfortable expressing your opinions, express them more articulately, and make a better impression while doing so:
1. Be sincere. First, be honest with your opinions. If you make up opinions, disagree for the sake of disagreeing, or agree because it’s easier, people will be able to tell. It’s much easier to express what’s really on your mind, and you’ll get more respect for doing so.
2. Never disrespect someone. Respect is essential to demonstrate if you want any respect yourself; if you disrespect anyone in your expression, for any reason, you’ll instantly lose credibility. For the most part, you can follow common sense here; criticize actions, never a person, and never shoot down an opinion, even if you disagree with it. Remain polite and professional at all times.
3. Frame criticism in a positive light. If you’re about to disagree with someone, or criticize something, soften the blow by framing your criticism in a positive light. For starters, don’t just complain about something; make suggestions on how to fix it. You can also include compliments and positive notes alongside your negative ones to give a fuller illustration of your perspective.
4. Be consistent. If you’re going to start expressing your opinion, do so consistently. It will show that you’re serious and sincere, and not just personally invested in one or two central issues. It will also earn you more respect, and if you’re articulate, will start prompting people to seek your opinion proactively.
5. Remain firm, yet flexible. Don’t flip-flop your position immediately or back down when someone disagrees with you; this is a sign of both weakness and insincerity. Remain firm in your opinion if it’s what you believe. However, you also want to demonstrate flexibility by being open to other opinions, and changing your mind if new information or a persuasive argument enters the fray.
6. Don’t speak too much. Being concise is always a good thing. It’s good to express your opinion, but the longer you talk about it, the more open you’ll leave yourself to errors and fumbles. Say as little as possible to make your point, and do so with the most articulate, accurate language you can.
7. Engage in dialogue. Don’t just express your opinion. Invite dissent. Encourage discussion. The more participation you have surrounding your opinions, the more respectful, sincere, and open you’re going to seem.
These strategies will help you express your mind more thoroughly and respectfully, but if you’re used to being shy or intimidated, it’s going to take some time to get used to the idea. This is one case where you really can “fake it ‘til you make it”—you have to exhibit confidence before you start to feel it naturally, and express your mind when you’re uncomfortable doing so, until you start feeling comfortable innately.