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How to Find Your Voice at Work

How to Find Your Voice at Work

Chrissy Scivicque

November 15, 2010

Be Selective

Keep in mind if you have an opinion on everything, eventually people will stop listening. When you have something important to say you believe adds value, that’s the time to speak up. Don’t just talk because you feel like you should, or you don’t want to be left out or simply because you haven’t heard your own beautiful voice in a while.

Time and Place

There are appropriate times and places for speaking up just as there are inappropriate ones. Be aware of what’s going on around you and be receptive to the environment. If tensions are high, you may want to stay quiet for the time being. If you have a topic to discuss that may be uncomfortable or awkward, take note of the people in the room. You may want to have a private conversation instead. If you need to confront a delicate situation with someone who’s particularly stressed out, choose your timing wisely. You may want to wait until things slow down. You always want to find the best environment in which to be heard.

Tact and Diplomacy

Approach any business conversation with a professional tone and keep your language neutral and non-judgmental. When people feel attacked, they stop listening and go into “defensive mode.” Don’t be too vocal when your emotions are high; take time to gather yourself and then approach delicate situations with the appropriate level of caution. Be sensitive to the feelings of others and use all of your senses to gauge the environment. If you feel others shifting away from you, getting nervous or antsy, or simply not paying attention, tune into yourself and make adjustments as needed.

Be Polite

Basic social etiquette applies in the workplace. Don’t interrupt others, raise your voice or use confrontational language. While you want to demonstrate assertiveness, you need to balance it with respect. If done wrong, it may come off as aggressive, which can have an incredibly counterproductive impact on the conversation.

Back it Up

Look, it would be great if everyone just listened to you because you’re YOU and you deserve to be heard. But most people, especially in the workplace, want some proof you know what you’re talking about. So, before you jump in with your opinions and brilliant insights, collect your supporting data. What makes you think this way? What do you know that perhaps they don’t? What facts brought you to these conclusions? Don’t just rely on your gut feeling. No one else trusts your gut the way you do.

Zip It

Learn how to speak concisely. Long-winded, rambling monologues are easily tuned out. Give voice to your thoughts and then zip it. Let others reflect on it, question it, and mull it over. Your job isn’t to defend what you’ve said. Respond when needed but don’t expect that you’ll convince everyone to agree with you. That’s not what this is about. Having a voice is the important part. Whether or not it’s the final authority on the topic is immaterial.