It’s quite frustrating to be not heard when you speak up, and unfortunately, it’s more common than you might think.
Speaking up in a group setting is one of the biggest challenges many people face. You have some valuable information and opinions to share, but no one listens to you. It can be hard enough to find something worthwhile to contribute, and when your contribution isn’t even noticed, it can be demoralizing.
It doesn’t happen just in groups. Did you ever have a quick conversation with your boss in the hall and walk away thinking you missed out on the opportunity to share a good idea?
These seven tips will help you quickly make your point and increase the likelihood you will be heard when you speak up.
1. Provide a context.
Before you blurt out your thought, start with a short sentence that explains the intention of your communication or the assumptions you are making. For example, “I have a thought on a different way to approach this.” or “I’m assuming the budget is an issue here. I have thought on how we can save some money.” This calls people’s attention to you and also gives them a frame for understanding where your contribution fits.
2. Get to the point quickly.
Make your message brief but also complete.Include all of the information needed to understand your message. But stay focused, don’t ramble and don’t repeat yourself. People get confused when you pack too much into one statement and don’t know what’s the most important thing to respond to. They get impatient hearing the same thing several times. Make your point, and then pause. You can clarify your intention further based on the response you get.
3. Say it a different way if you’re not understood the first time.
If you need to repeat yourself, don’t just repeat the same words. Explain it in a different way – provide additional information, background information or use different words.
4. Ask for a response.
Sometimes in groups the conversation moves quickly onto other subjects. If you don’t get a response, don’t assume your point was not valuable. In a neutral way, say “I’d like to know what you thought about my idea.”
5. Use “I statements”
Take personal ownership for your ideas and feelings. When you use terms like “some people” or “our group,” it is difficult to tell what you really think and feel or whether you are just repeating the thoughts and feelings of others.
6. If you are having strong feelings, name them.
If you are having a strong feeling that you don’t acknowledge, people will react to your emotions not your statement. For example, instead of angrily saying “I have a different idea for how to approach this,” you could say, “Im frustrated with our approach to this problem because we keep doing the same with without getting different results. I want to suggest a different approach.” Be sure to use “I statements.” If you say, “I feel angry,” it is less likely to provoke a defensive reaction than saying, “You’re making me angry.”
7. Get feedback on how your communication came across.
If you have a pattern of your messages not being understood or dismissed, ask someone you respect and trust for feedback on how your communications are coming across. Perhaps your tone or non-verbals are giving a message you don’t intend.
Terrific insights and reminders for employees at every level. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Jesse.
Thanks for pointing out that these tips apply to employees at all levels. In fact, in any kind of setting, work or otherwise. And thanks for your kind words, David.
These are so important. Thank you for creating a list I can share with my clients. I really like the “name your emotion” with what happened that made you feel this way so people understand the “why” not just the “what.” Thanks!
I’m all about practical tools and am delighted to hear you found this valuable enough to share with your clients.
Thanks Jesse. Your first and last points speak to me. I’m prone to start talking from the middle of a conversation. What I mean is, I forget to declare my intentions and/or assumptions. I just jump right in.
It takes listeners too long to catch up. They feel confused. Confusion often leaders to frustration all around.
These seem like common sense tips and yet most of us make at least some of these mistakes at various times. Thanks so for sharing your own experience, Dan. Great to see you here!
Great as always. When it comes to naming emotion, if it can be a 1:1 conversation, I recommend succinctly describing the situation. Then, explain how it made you feel (angry, ignored, put down, whatever). Specify what you want to have happen(or not happen)and what would be the result of that action. This is a way to be assertive without being aggressive.
Helpful tips especially for resolving conflict. As always, thanks so much for sharing your insights Eileen.
Great points, especially about setting the context in the beginning and owning whatever you say, including the emotion. Jesse, what do you think about standing up when you choose to speak?
Thanks John! Interesting question about standing when you choose to speak. It certainly is a way to command attention.