5 reasons to speak up when you don’t think you should

Posted on September 27th, by Dr Rob Yeung .

20150928 It's only by speaking up that you remind people you're valuedWhen I’m coaching clients who wish they could speak up more, they sometimes say things like:

  • “I don’t want to sound stupid.”
  • “I don’t want to be the negative person in the room.”
  • “But I don’t want to go against what the rest of the team wants.”

The thing is: there are often times when you need to speak up.  Yes, there may be a voice at the back of your head telling you to stay quiet.  But here are five good reasons why I think you should speak up:

  1. You may be depriving the group of constructive criticism.  There’s a phenomenon in psychology called groupthink, which occurs when a few vocal people argue for one direction and the majority of the group goes along with it. In such instances, groups can sometimes make bad or even disastrous decisions even when most people may think it’s a bad idea.  However, even having a single person speaking up can often be enough to puncture the groupthink and encourage other dissenters to speak up too.
  2. You may be depriving the group of a good idea. Just because no one else has mentioned what you wish to say doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea!  Remember that your colleagues can’t read your mind.  It may be that you really are the only person with the knowledge or expertise to make a certain comment.  If you don’t speak up, the point may never get made at all.
  3. You may allow the group’s thinking to progress even further.  Even if you speak up and your comment doesn’t seem immediately useful, you may actually be pushing other people’s thinking further.  A good tip for adding comments into a discussion is by building on what other people have said.  You could start your comment with a phrase like “Adding to what John says, I think…” or “Yes, and in order to make it happen, we need to…” or “That’s a good point.  If we do that though, we need to be careful that…”
  4. You need to be noticed.  Many studies have concluded that people who speak up tend to be rated as more intelligent. You don’t want people thinking that you’re quiet because you’re stupid!  So speak up because it’s only by making a contribution that you remind people that you are a valued member of the team.
  5. You need to make your stance clear.  Imagine for a moment that you say nothing and then – weeks or months later – the project goes wrong.  When everything is falling apart, there’s no use saying that you always knew things would go wrong.  You need to express your concerns early on, when people can still do something about it.  Even if you get overruled and the project goes wrong, you can rest assured that people will remember that you were the lone voice of reason back at the start of it all.

So there we have five reasons to speak up.  But if you need even more of a confidence boost, consider these final two tips for getting more fired up.  Firstly, remember The Confidence Con and the fact that lots of other people probably feel less confident than they appear.  Secondly, put a label on how you feel – describe how you’re feeling – it’s a proven way of reducing anxiety and nervousness.

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