Afraid to Speak Up at Work? Follow this 3-Step Strategy

Under normal circumstances it’s difficult to speak up at work, especially if you’re trying to express something you’d like your manager to change or handle differently. During a crisis, the emotions that prevent us from speaking up are heightened by the anxiety and worry surrounding the unknown. 

In these unsettling times, it is even more important to avoid bottling up your feelings because that will only make them worse, especially when you’re working from home and you don’t have the usual reassurance you get from being in an office, venting to a colleague, or checking in with your manager as you pass each other in the hallway. Now, if you want to have any of these casual conversations you need to make an appointment with someone and spend extra hours looking at your computer screen. 

The good news is that speaking up is a skill that can be learned and sometimes having these conversations virtually allows you to set up meetings with your manager that are less awkward and foreboding. In these cases, not having access to casual hallway conversations can be a gift because you don’t need to say, “Hey, we need to talk.” You can say, “Do you have time for a 15 minute check-in call to discuss this project?” and then send a calendar invitation. But, before you request the meeting, there are a few things you need to do to prepare the agenda. Here are three steps to amplify your voice and make sure your message is received loud and clear:

  1. Prepare comments and questions ahead of time. 

With so much on our plates, many of us are guilty of skimming an agenda on the way to the meeting. When presenting something to your team, make sure you do your homework in advance.

In this case, being prepared is more than half the battle. Knowing the material will naturally boost your confidence, so voicing your opinion will be easier.

Challenge yourself to speak up at least once during each meeting. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but be patient with yourself. Practice makes perfect.

2. Reflect on your why. 

It’s important to understand why you are speaking up as it relates to the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. If you do this before you go into the meeting you’ll be able to show up in a more confident, collaborative way rather than in a defensive way. Ask yourself these questions to help kickstart your reflection: Why do you care about your role? Why do you believe in the company mission? What do you hope to contribute? Ask yourself these questions before you head into the meeting. This will help you connect to a sense of purpose, and it will come across when you present your ideas.

Reviewing this list will get you out of anxiety mode and into excitement. It serves as a reminder of your dedication and passion. Your credibility isn’t just measured by your knowledge and experience; it’s also shown through active participation and inspiring your team through your commitment to the company.

3. Take a deep breath to get centered. 

Before you walk through that door, take a deep breath to calm your nerves. What you are about to do is brave, but you can do it!  

Most importantly, stop second guessing yourself. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speaking up will not only increase the respect your coworkers have for you, but the respect you have for yourself. 

Also, remember that not every question and idea needs to brilliant. Don’t overthink and if it makes you feel more comfortable, start simple to ease yourself into it. The more you practice, the more confident you will become until speaking up becomes a habit. 

You’ve come prepared and you know the material. Now it’s your time to shine.