The art of communication is not mastered by just knowing what to say and how to say it.
A big factor is knowing when to say it. So often people sit back and say nothing when something really needs to be said. It could be an idea, a suggestion, an observation, a criticism...but for some reason they don't want to speak up.
They may be afraid of hurting another person, looking mean or foolish, or opening a can of worms that will make a mess in everyone's lives. Sometimes it seems like staying silent is the wiser choice. But here are five reasons why despite the risk, standing up and saying your peace is best.
1. Silence is deemed approval. You may think that staying silent keeps you from being involved in any conflict, but quite the opposite. Silence is as much an active form of communication as talking. Anytime you are involved in a situation, people are aware of all the input and lack of it. If you disapprove and don't say anything it will not make you seem easy going. If the problem persists and you did nothing people may consider it as enabling and think the issue is as much your fault as the person who actually caused the problem. You may destroy trust and create resentment. People rarely thank you for withholding information down the line.
2. The greater good should be the priority. I like to believe most people are good hearted by nature. And many stay silent because they don't want to do any harm by offending or criticizing someone. But when a person or the team is headed down a dangerous path it's selfish to put your own need to be comfortable above the needs of the others. Worse, by staying silent, you may be harming the very people you hope to help. The worst case scenario if you speak up is that someone may disagree, but at least the issue is at the forefront and an active decision can be made. The best case scenario is that everyone benefits and you are hailed as a powerful leader.
3. Demonstrate you are invested. Why are you in the conversation in the first place? Someone invited you into the dynamic. If you truly don't have a stake then find a better use of your time. But if you are there for a reason you need to show your commitment to the process and the people involved by being active and vocal. Speaking up is an important form of honesty. Honesty actually builds trust, especially when combined with tact and empathy. Demonstrate that you will be truthful with people, that you care about them, and that you give good advice, and you will never lack for trusting friends and followers.
4. No one else may know. You can't assume the obvious is obvious. Your experience and knowledge has value in a given situation. No one else has your unique perspective. That doesn't mean that everything in your brain is worth communicating, but with a little discretion and thought, you should be able to bring value in most situations. And your piece of the puzzle may be the most important finisher. You're also not doing yourself any favors by not sharing your expertise. People don't automatically recognize your skills, values, ambitions, and desires when you are quiet. If you wait around for people to notice or read your mind, you will likely end up on many paths that are not of your own choosing. You may end up with projects you don't want, missing promotions you do, or accepting tasks you don't have time or ability to complete. Gather up your confidence and share.
5. You may not be alone in your thinking. It's entirely possible that your insightful observations and conclusions have surfaced in the minds of others. Others may share your thoughts and opinions, but may be also unwilling to speak up. By speaking your mind you encourage them to voice their opinions as well. If everyone holds back, the bus may silently head over a cliff. In my organization we believe so strongly that everything should be voiced in some manner that we have a core value of Bring It Up. We would sooner celebrate somebody saying something irrelevant and unimportant than lose ground or have massive failure due to group silence.
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