Yesterday I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a discussion on the theme “Dare to Speak Up and Be Heard” with the organization, Women Standing Together. It was a great group of interesting, competent, accomplished women. Still, most agreed on one thing: it’s too easy to hold back and not say things we want and need to say. Speaking up can be hard and scary.
Too often, with women in particular, there is a fear that speaking up and saying things in a direct manner will produce negative emotional reactions in others and make us vulnerable to being seen as mean, defensive, stupid, or incompetent.
My observations about effectively speaking up are different. I think the common outcomes of thoughtfully sharing our observations is a positive one. Here are some surprising and very real benefits of saying (skillfully) what’s on our minds.
1. Being Able to Sleep at Night
At the beginning of my career I worked in community mental health and in the public schools. There were many challenging and potentially life-threatening situations of which I became aware and was in charge of helping. I felt a responsibility to say things in a way that would get people to listen and produce the best possible result- getting a parent to be aware of their child’s mental health problems, convincing a principal to intervene with a student who was unsafe at school, or advocating for the more effective treatment of a highly suicidal teen.
In these stressful situations, I was extremely motivated by the need to sleep at night. I found that if I could put my best foot forward, saying things in the most effective way possible, I was more at peace with myself. Dealing with the stress was easier when I was sure I had done my part. If I spoke up, provided the information, and did so in the most skilled manner I could find, then I could sleep soundly.
How much stress, anxiety, regret, or anger are you living with for things you are not saying but should? Could you speak up and find some relief?
My rule: if something prevents you from sleeping, deal with it the very next day!
People tell me all the time they want to feel more confident. The only solution is to push yourself to do the things you want to feel confident about. You become confident about speaking up when you have experience doing it. But at first it means it’s uncomfortable and probably anxiety-provoking.
Pushing through the discomfort, you will get more comfortable, see that it often produces a positive result, and gain skills through practicing.
My advice is to start small- speak up on more comfortable things and gradually take on bigger and bigger challenges.
Having the skills to communicate well and not being too afraid to do so are key ingredients in gaining the respect of others. I remember feeling like my position as a young, female social worker was not a very powerful one. However, when I learned how to become effective at speaking up and self-advocating, while also maintaining kindness and compassion, I found that people respected me a lot more.
If you feel disrespected, one step you can consider is becoming a more effective communicator. Speaking up and learning to do it well can leave us feeling more powerful, respected, and appreciated.
4. Less Resentment
The truth is that what you don’t say can have consequences. When you suppress saying something important, resentment is often the result. I’ve heard people bitterly complain about a perceived mistreatment, only to find that they have never said anything to the person with whom they have the problem.
Not speaking up when we have been wronged will result in a toxic soup of resentment, powerlessness, and negativity. Speak up for yourself whenever it’s safe to do so and you’ll be an emotionally healthier person.
All my experiences working with people suggests that people who appropriately speak up, especially on important matters, have better relationships with others. When you speak your truth, and don’t hold onto negativity, others know where they stand and feel more at ease. Being a straightforward, honest communicator can enhance connections with others. To me, that’s one of the most important things we can do.
Want to learn to be Effectively Frank™? I can help.
First, I’m offering a workshop, Effectively Frank™: Authentic Communication Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs, at the Women’s Business Center at CEI in Portland, Tuesday, September 30th from 5:30pm-8:00pm. The cost is $25 and is sure to give you skills you can use immediately. Sign up soon- space is limited!
Second, I’m offering an individualized coaching program called Effectively Frank™ Bootcamp.
This month-long program is designed to improve your communication skills in a big way. It includes 4 sessions, 60 minutes each, of individual coaching, along with personalized between-session challenges. But don’t delay- if you sign up and pay by September 26th, 2014, the cost is $300 (a $400 value). Coaching sessions need to begin by October 1st, 2014. To sign up, please call or email me directly.