We all know that person who monopolizes every meeting with a constant flow of opinions. Not only do they voice their thoughts constantly, they're also bullies, criticizing the positions of those who disagree with them. This type of person instantly shuts me down in a meeting. I'm not afraid to speak my mind, but knowing someone will argue nonstop and act like they're the ultimate authority rubs me the wrong way and instantly makes me a non-participating member of the discussion.
Experts say, however, that holding back can actually be more damaging than speaking, even if the opinion contradicts your boss’s or is controversial.
In an article in Forbes, Glenn Llopis, entrepreneur, author, speaker and business advisor, says, “Your voice defines the value you bring to the organization. The less you say, the more you enable others to define your voice and your identity.”
Llopis shared six reasons employees must speak up consistently at work:
- Organizational Performance. Vocalizing your thoughts fuels discussion, ideation and group think. It’s important to discuss issues openly in order to get input, feedback and invite perspective.
- Command Respect. When you share your opinion consistently you begin to command respect from those who are not courageous enough to express themselves. That said, pay attention to your tone and manage it.
- Strengthen Your Influence. Many times the one with a consistent, strong voice, is the individual invited to lead a meeting, start a new project or asked to speak with those who have influence to move an initiative forward.
- Unexpected Opportunities. Maintaining a vocal presence allows your talent to be discovered and creates opportunities previously unseen. At the very least, speaking up can get you invited to participate in important conversations at work.
- Solidify Your Brand. If you are deliberate in how you express yourself at work, others will take notice. People will appreciate your consistency and utilize the predictability of your voice.
- Accelerates Your Career. There is a reason certain people advance more quickly than others. They have mastered the art of balanced, consistent speech that colleagues respect and admire.
Even if your opinion doesn’t lead to the final solution, it could spark critical brainstorming and alternative ways of thinking that keep the conversation going. The more people that participate in a discussion, the faster the group can settle on a solution or action plan. I have spoken up in many meetings, and while my opinion did not solve the problem, it reignited the thought process. This reawakening led to a solution, and caused leaders to look at me with a new perspective.
If you're struggling to find ways to let your voice be heard, experts at Mindtools.com list the following seven ways to build your confidence so that you can make a valuable contribution to your next meeting.
- Have Confidence in Your Own Value. You've been invited to the meeting because you have something to offer. You are there because you're wanted and valued.
- Ask Questions. If putting your own idea or view across is too nerve-racking, begin by asking questions about what other attendees are saying. This shows you're attentive, engaged and interested.
- Speak Up for Others. Learning to push yourself forward can be hard, but most of us tend to find helping and praising others easier. Start to build your confidence by looking out for others.
- Be One of the First to Speak. By speaking early, you can have your say and feel more relaxed, receptive and positive during the rest of the meeting. Plus, you won’t have to worry about someone else voicing the same opinion or finding a break in conversation to fit in your thoughts.
- Embrace the Skills of Introversion. If you're an introvert, take advantage of the fact that, as a natural observer, you're likely reflective, strategic, thoughtful and a good listener. Demonstrate these skills by researching the meeting topic in advance to plan what you want to say, or, in the meeting, summarize what's being said.
- Give Your Idea the Advantage. Let fellow attendees know in advance that you have something you'd like to discuss during the meeting.
- Keep it Short, With No Apology. Start and end your contribution with conviction.
According to Llopis, “Your voice can enable the organization, challenge the status quo and cultivate innovation, inspire those that don’t have a voice, increase your market relevancy and value, and provides leadership and earns trust from the industry you serve.”
Even if it's a challenge for you, voicing your opinion is critical to the future of your career.