Speaking Up: How to Ask for What You Want so That You’re Heard and Heeded

By The Intersect Group

Speaking up at work is a crucial leadership skill. Even if you feel REALLY uncomfortable speaking up about your ideas, needs.

In other words, when you have something to say that

  • adds to the conversation
  • helps a project along
  • corrects an unwise course of action

but you never speak up because you’re worried about pushback; that’s just….sad.

And it’s no way to live your (career) life

To move up in responsibility, you’re going to need to speak up when appropriate. The good news? It gets easier the more you do it.

In a perfect world, no one would have to worry about retaliation, push back, nasty words spoken when they speak up for what they want, offer a counterpoint, etc.

And while the world isn’t perfect, most people never retaliate when we say something counter to the conversation, ask for something different, etc.

Yet, too many of us move throughout our careers thinking that someone will.

How to feel the fear and speak up anyway

To get ahead on the job – to earn the respect of your peers and supervisors, to be known as a thoughtful person, one infused with great ideas and justifiable concerns – you’re going to have to speak up.

Here’s how to do so in different scenarios:

You may hesitate out of embarrassment, the fear that someone will make fun of the idea. Aim to wipe that from your mind because almost all good ideas start out as incomplete. They start as one idea, then someone adds a great idea to that idea, and so on. Eventually, great things can sprout all because someone spoke up with an “incomplete idea.”

  • When you don’t think it’s “your place” to speak up.

You may be worried about contradicting a manager, or your manager has asked you to do something you think is “iffy,” or it otherwise doesn’t sit right with you.

Speaking up when scared/nervous is pretty much required if you want to win promotions/be given more responsibility.

If you disagree with an idea, say so politely and always have an alternative solution or provide constructive criticism – never, ever insult someone’s ideas/beliefs, whether in public or even one-on-one.

How to start the “actual” speaking up

There’s something of an art to speaking up in a way that’s professional, non-confrontational, and helps your cause. And it often starts with one of three phrases:

  • I was wondering about that.
  • I’m uncomfortable with that.
  • From my perspective…

To make sure you’re heard and heeded….

  • Speak with conviction. Don’t say “Do you think,” but instead say “I think,” “I believe,” and so on.
  • Speak with intention. Emphasize key points; be assertive (not aggressive).
  • Get to the point. No meandering.
  • Quiet, not loud. It’s true: people won’t hear your words if you’re shouting/speaking loudly. They’ll just hear the shouting.
  • Watch your body language. Consider a power pose. Stand up or sit up straight. Look the person to whom you’re speaking directly in their eyes. (Scan the room and look at each person for a moment or so if speaking to a group.)

It’s also wise to ask for feedback and encourage a discussion around your ideas.

If you’re looking for a new career where you are heard and heeded, take a look at our IT and finance/accounting opportunities — many of them direct-hire – to see if one or more appeal to you.