You are in a meeting full of smart people having an interesting discussion. You have an idea pop up in your head and want to share it. Someone else is talking and you don’t feel like interjecting. At the same time, the pessimist voice in your head starts messing with you. You hear it saying “Are you sure that idea is good? Do you think these smart people wouldn’t already have thought about it? What happens when you share the idea? What if they find your idea stupid? What if they think you are not smart? Maybe it is better that you stay quiet.” You end up listening to the evil voice and stay quiet. After a few minutes, someone else shares the same idea that you had and everyone loves it. A few days later, this scenario repeats.
Has this happened to you over and over again? Do you fear being judged or rejected and is that preventing you from voicing your ideas in front of others? You are not alone. It happens to most of us. As humans, we are always seeking acceptance from others and the thought of being rejected can lock our tongues and make us go into our shells. Being assertive is even more difficult for introverted folks.
Voicing your ideas and thoughts is a requirement to succeed in the workplace. It is a key part of building and demonstrating thought leadership. Thought leadership is a skill essential for career growth and building your brand. Beyond individual success and career growth, it is important for the workplace to have diversity of thoughts. Your ideas can lead to innovation and creativity. The world and your colleagues need to hear you!
Here’s 5 ways that you can get past the fear of speaking up to help make the world a better place:
1. Stop rejecting yourself
First order of things is to quiet the inner voice that’s messing with you. It is very easy to get wrapped up and spiral down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts. Think about the worst possible outcome that can happen if you share an idea. Is that outcome worse than you rejecting yourself or judging your own ideas harshly? Is it worse than rehashing the scenario in your head wishing you had said something. And is it worse than the long term impact on your career or personal growth?
Look for positive validation and proof that your ideas have been accepted even if you were not the one to voice them. Think back to the time where you did share something and received positive feedback. Dig into what prompted you to share in certain settings and try to recreate that feeling. Trick your mind to visualize a scene that brings a smile to your face and then raise your hand to share your thoughts.
2. One baby step at a time
Start with something small so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Does a 1:1 setting make you feel more comfortable? What about small meetings of 3-4 people? Do you feel more comfortable writing out the idea? How about you connect directly with one of the folks after a big meeting to share your idea 1:1 or via message/email? Once you start doing this, progress to the next step. Doing so will provide you quick feedback or validation along the way which will ease you into speaking up at big meetings.
How about starting with an idea that suggests small changes or tweaks. For example, suggesting changing the day of a particular meeting or moving the sprint planning cycle. You don’t have to start with a ground-breaking idea or rock the boat. Sometimes the best ideas are small and simple and people are more likely to accept those. This will also make people warm up to you and see you as someone who is looking out for the team.
3. Be vulnerable
I often see people and even the most senior leaders use this trick - whenever they have a question or an idea, they start with “This may sound like a stupid idea…” or “Not sure if this has been already discussed…” or “I am still learning about the team/company… ”. Starting with honesty and humility helps set the tone and puts others at ease. It also shows that you are open to feedback on the idea.
Being vulnerable requires courage. Speaking up requires us to be comfortable with being vulnerable. Once you build the courage to be vulnerable, you will become more confident in yourself and your ideas. You do not have to start with confidence. Just put yourself out there and pat yourself for saying something even if it is the smallest of ideas.
4. Seek out an ally
Ideas come to all people. There is no such thing that the best ideas come to people who are extroverted and assertive. To build products and services that are inclusive of all types of people in the world, there is a need to hear everyone - even the quiet voices. Seek out an ally from your team who is often present in the same meetings as you. Talk to them about the challenge you face in meetings. They can help provide you time and space in meetings to voice your ideas. If they call upon you, it will feel less stressful than finding that right time to speak up.
Try to be ally to someone else who may be in a similar position as you. You may find it easier to chime in for others as opposed to yourself. It will also help you practice just speaking up.
5. Lean In
Do you sit in the back of the room during meetings? Do you keep your camera off during virtual meetings? Stop doing so and lean in - sit at the table in the most central position, keep your camera on so others can see you and connect with you. When you feel part of the discussion as opposed to observing from behind, you are more likely to be energized by the discussion and even come up with ideas. It is understandable that the quiet and introverted folks have a harder time interrupting while a discussion is going on. If you find it difficult to get your voice in, try to raise your hand (IRL or virtually). The physical gesture can feel less intrusive. Find other such ways to lean in or chime into the discussion.
I hope you will try these tips and make your voice heard. I assure you that saying something is always better than not saying anything at all. I am confident that your ideas are even more awesome because you have put a lot of thought into it.
My call to action for you is to try speaking up at one meeting next week. Comment below or message me to let me know how it went.
In my next post, I will discuss how to influence others to buy into your ideas and lead big changes. Stay tuned! :)
If you want your voice to be heard, enhance your leadership and communication skills and grow in your career, I can help. Contact to setup an introductory consultation.