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The courage to speak up has been coming up in my work recently. From having transparent conversations with colleagues to sharing our ideas with the world, many of us hold ourselves back.
Three fundamental fears stand in the way of speaking up.
1. I may damage relationships I need
There is an interpersonal risk when we are honest. Especially when we want to share a dissenting view, feedback or an idea about a colleague’s domain.
The receiver may take it personally or get defensive, and then we must deal with the fallout.
There is also a cost if we do not speak up: festering, missed opportunities, resentment, avoiding decisions, and isolation are just some.
A big reframe on this fear came from something my colleague Dr Petros Oratis said in a team coaching assignment:
“There is rupture in professional relationships, but there is also healing and restoration.”
Believing in our ability to repair our relationships is a positive shift for many of us.
Often we walk on eggshells at work. Afraid not to upset or offend everyone.
Measuring what we say and how we say it. Sweeping things under the carpet.
And yet, inevitably, sooner or later, in every close work relationship, there will be a rupture.
We are human and emotional. We make mistakes and get triggered. We miscommunicate and misunderstand.
That’s when we need the courage to have the often uncomfortable conversation of repairing.
A muscle grows stronger after the microtears of exercise. Our work relationships are the same. They can grow stronger after we repair the tears.
Nothing is more fulfilling and powerful than having people you can team up with to achieve great things.
But strong work relationships do not just happen.
They are built, often through a series of tears and repairs and uncomfortable conversations.
2. I may be criticised
We are not paid to be liked. We are paid to be useful and effective.
Our need to be liked will often stand in the way of being useful.
It serves our ego rather than our clients or employers.
It is the same with writing content. It is not about being liked.
It is about sharing our truth, knowing it will inspire some and trigger others.
We need to be deeply grounded in our worth, irrespective of how others react.
If you are reluctant to speak up because you are afraid of criticism, know this:
Constructive comments will evolve your thinking and sharpen your ideas. Welcome them, and decide whether you adopt them or not.
“I don’t like this” comments are also inevitable. Every one of your favourite famous authors has a bunch of one-star reviews.
Not everybody likes chocolate, and that’s OK.
What’s more, when you are a thought leader, your ideas will not be mainstream or vanilla.
They are more likely to inspire and create raving fans but also trigger, provoke and cause resistance.
Non-constructive, negative comments are triggers and projections of the commenter and have nothing to do with you.
They rarely come from people who produce their own thought leadership or live a happy life. Just send those people compassion and light and move on. Oh, and if they are on social media and keep coming back, block them:-)
As T. Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
Are you going to be in the arena?
3. I may be wrong
Many of us will not speak up out of fear that our idea is not good enough, unique enough, important enough and so on.
I had a breakthrough about this recently: The opinions we share matter less than our intention behind them.
I have updated many of my old opinions. But, I realized that I still helped people when I shared my old opinions that I thought were great at the time.
You can share the “right” opinions, and if your intention is to manipulate or mislead people, you will do more harm than good (mostly to yourself).
And you can share your “incomplete” opinion, and if you intend to help people, you probably will.
In the worst case, you help them get more clarity. If what you said is something that won’t work, they are clearer about what will. In the best case, you inspire an even better idea.
Another quote by T. Roosevelt I like is this:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Opinions are like photos of a star through a telescope. They are never perfect. But even the lowest resolution of them can help us get a better understanding of the star.
As long as we do not share an image of our foot, claiming it is a star, we are fine:-)
When we do our best to share the right message for the right reasons in the right way, we can trust that both the receiver and ourselves will be OK.
It requires courage to speak up. But the risk of not speaking up is often higher.
Most of our fears are simply monsters under the bed; they disappear when we get a closer look or decide to focus on building our lego tower instead.
Here is to speaking up while building stronger relationships, businesses and showing people the beauty of the stars.
Check out the latest episode of The Leaderpath Show: 15 Reasons To Share Your Social Media or a Blog.
A reader responded to the last newsletter that they had no idea about the video library on my YouTube channel, as I do not talk much about it, so here it is; you can check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel.