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How To Speak Up – And Be Heard

Speaking up can be risky… on the upside, it can open terrific opportunities for growth and harmony in your life… on the downside, it can push a teetering relationship into a complete breakdown, or make life so difficult on the job that you quit – or worse yet, you get fired… It is no wonder that we get tongue-tied, especially when it comes to expressing our feelings. But when life has stalled and we are frustrated at every attempt to press forward, the problem is very likely connected with our fear of speaking up.

It is worth taking the risks when you consider the consequences of not speaking up, beginning with the fact that your silence doesn’t help you pull out of the stall and ending with the truth that  repressing your thoughts and feelings will eventually make you sick. In perpetuating the victim consciousness that typically goes along with not speaking up, you give up your power to grow and create…. and to get what you want.

There are some simple ways of speaking up that help you to reduce the risks and increase the probability of your success:

Choose the Timing – The first rule to remember – yes, this would be a rule as opposed to a suggestion – is to carefully choose the time to speak up – and the place… avoid reacting out of impulse, give yourself time to think of how you want to say what you are feeling – and to choose a time and a place when you are more likely to be heard… blurting it all out in the midst of a heated battle could open the doors to healing – but is more likely to set off a blame/shame game that won’t help you resolve the conflicts. Instead, observe your feelings, accept them but choose not to react to them in the moment… Choose a time when all is calm, watch for a moment when you can naturally bring up the subject, after you have cleared your mind and done some thinking… try to find a neutral place to have your heart-to-heart… I would take my son out to dinner when I wanted his attention…. usually, once you set the intent to speak up, the universe will help you to create the perfect time to open the communications.

Do Your Research/Homework – Before you speak up, know what you’re talking about – if you want a raise, be prepared to show your boss that you have earned it; if you’re wanting to clear the air in a relationship, get your facts straight.  Too often we react out of emotion and perception, assumptions that are most often inaccurate… Get a second opinion, confide in someone you trust, someone who may be more objective than you, and then be willing to consider their input.

Be Positive - turn complaints into needs… Be prepared to show that making a change, granting your request benefits everyone… don’t whine…. ask questions… instead of complaining to your boss that you have been passed over for promotion once again, remind him or her of your ambitions and ask what you can do to accomplish your goals, then note how your goals support your department’s success and the company’s prosperity. If you are seeking change in a relationship, notice what the other does well, recognize what is working well in the relationship before you open up about what you want them to change. Ask what you can do to make things better between you before speaking up about what you want… Don’t be issuing ultimatums – be open to negotiating, willing to be flexible.

Listen Up Before Speaking Up – If you want to be heard, you also need to listen… this follows on the comments about Doing Your Research. Take time to think about what has already been said around the issue, especially about what “the other” has said…  check your motives, notice where you may be operating from old fixed beliefs or unrealistic expectations. Listen with your heart, accept where the other is coming from… open to compromise. When you hear the other, you are much more likely to be heard.  (For more insights on the role of listening in getting what you want, check out this article on Empathic Listening.)

Be Prepared to Put It All On the Line… Even when you think things through, have set things up so you can be heard, there are consequences to speaking up… while it is very freeing, opens you up to new  opportunities for advancement, you must be prepared for the possibility that it could bring a relationship to an end or make it obvious that you need to look for another job. Your objective in speaking up is to open negotiations around some question, need or change that you want to express – and feel strongly about. Sometimes there is no room for such negotiations. In these situations, your best choice is to accept what is, be grateful that the air has been cleared – now you can move forward on a new path.

If you are prepared to listen and think before you let your voice be heard, you increase the probability of achieving your goal. Then speak softly, with confidence…. trusting that whatever the result it represents progress, growth and the potential for exciting new experiences. Speaking up is really about reclaiming your power… think about it!

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