It’s important to speak up at work for a variety of reasons. You may need to address an issue or injustice. You might have a different opinion. You may want to draw attention to a hard-working but overlooked colleague.
But it’s not always comfortable.
In fact, if you’re venturing a differing opinion, it may feel downright dangerous. We’ve been trained to see errors and being wrong as terrible things. But your thoughts and beliefs about your work situation are based on your knowledge and your experiences, which means you’re as qualified as anyone else to have an opinion. Even if what you suggest isn’t a feasible option, merely saying it can help push the conversation in a different direction, and possibly to a solution.
That said, it can still be tough to find the right time to speak up. Here are some things to consider:
- Is what I’m about to say relevant to the discussion? I’m very guilty of having irrelevant ideas sparked by the conversation, and as an extrovert, I always want to share those ideas anyway—not to grab attention, but because I got excited and wanted to share my excitement. But at work, if the thing you’re about to say isn’t actually about the subject at hand, try jotting it down instead so you can remember it and bring it up when it is appropriate.
- Have I already dominated the discussion? Again, this is more for you extroverts out there. We don’t intend to overshadow everyone else, but since we tend to think out loud, if you notice you’ve been doing that a lot, try to solicit feedback from your quieter team members.
- Is my boss open to ideas now? This one is particularly worth considering if the conversation has been fraught or your supervisor is in a mood. Your insights aren’t less valuable because of these things, of course, but are much more likely to fall on deaf ears.
- Has this discussion already gone on too long? We’ve all been in those meetings—endlessly discussing something, and realizing, halfway through, that this conversation isn’t going to lead to anything at all. Choose to be the gracious one who lets things wrap up. But if your idea is really great, write it down to bring up later.
- Are you ready to say something? You don’t always need to be the one speaking up. If you just don’t have it in you today, that’s okay. (Caveat: if you see someone being mistreated or bullied, it’s my belief that you must always speak up unless doing so puts you in actual danger.) If you just don’t have that energy in you today, it’s okay to be a listener. Sometimes you need to get more information or gather proof of your idea first.