Building Confidence and Conquering the Fear of Speaking Up

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Have you ever wanted to make a suggestion at a meeting or bring up a matter that bothered you to a supervisor but held back because of a fear of speaking up? If so, you’re far from alone in this, as fear of speaking up is incredibly common, and especially so for women. Women have been socialized not to be too loud or too assertive, and to do their best to placate everyone in the room. However, there can be major consequences regardless of whether you keep your ideas to yourself or speak up.

Getting over the fear of speaking up requires confidence. It also requires determining the precise cause of why you’re afraid to give your input or discuss issues in the workplace that may be bothering you.

Identify Why You Are Afraid to Speak Up

Depending on the situation, you might have a specific reason why you’re afraid to share your ideas, collaborate more, or try to address a problem. Figuring out the exact reason why you’re afraid is the best way to determine the correct way to deal with those situations.

If you’re afraid to share your ideas at meetings, is it because you’re worried colleagues won’t like your suggestions and think that you’re incompetent for making them? Or, are you afraid of being talked over, with the possibility that someone else will steal your idea? Even in the most supportive workplaces, these are reasonable fears to have and frequently hold women back from fully contributing. However, once you’ve identified the cause of your fear, you can work on trying to overcome it

Do Your Research

If you know a certain topic will be on the agenda at your next meeting, research it beforehand and come prepared with notes so that you’re ready to ask thoughtful questions and make insightful observations. If you know a topic like the back of your hand, you’ll feel more confident when speaking and will be eager to contribute your knowledge on the subject. However, you don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion. So don’t let the elusive goal of being an expert prevent you from speaking out or believe that because you’re not an expert you don’t have anything valuable to offer.

Megan Bozzuto, VP of Marketing & Membership Experience at IAW shares this: “I love when an employee contributes new, fresh ideas to a project. Even if it’s not their area of expertise, sometimes a fresh opinion or ‘devils advocate’ can help us to make progress and, as a leader, I appreciate the input that different minds can bring to the table.”

Practice What You Want to Say

If you’re preparing for a big discussion you may find it helpful to write down some talking points. When you’ve thought through what you want to say beforehand you can go in to the conversation with more confidence and clarity of mind. You can even try to anticipate possible responses or rebuttals and practice what you might say in response so that you’re not caught off guard. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything, but anticipating some things may give you the confidence you need to engage in the discussion.

Hype Yourself Up

Saying affirmations to yourself is another way to build your confidence. Affirmations are positive statements that help you overcome negative thoughts. If you think that whatever you’re going to say will be ill-received or that you’re going to fumble when your turn comes, then you’re attracting that negative energy and this will sap your confidence to speak. However, if you believe that you can do it – that you’re smart, capable, and articulate – then you’re likely to become that version of yourself. The great thing about affirmations is you don’t have to believe them when you first say them. But, the more you say the affirmations, the more your thinking will start to align with your words, and the more confident you will become. If you’re not into affirmations, give yourself an old-fashioned pep talk – whatever you have to do to inflate your confidence and attract positive energy. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of 10 affirmations that you can print and hang next to your desk to help get you started.

Think About the Consequences of Not Speaking Up

What will you lose if you let the fear of speaking up conquer you? Staying silent can also mean inadvertently agreeing with the thing that you want to speak up against. If you want to speak out against the way you’re being treated, for example, staying quiet may be signaling that you’re okay with it. You could be facing the very real fear of no longer having a job or being retaliated against within the organization, but you have to examine whether staying quiet is in line with your ethics and who you want to be as a person. Also, staying quiet in meetings can have a significant impact on your visibility, and consequently, your opportunities at work. If you desire to grow within your organization and to take on leadership opportunities, then staying quiet can hinder that effort.

When you think about the person you want to be, ask yourself: Is she brave? Does she speak her mind? Does she stand up for what she believes in? If that sounds like the person you want to be, then let that be the foundation of your confidence and let it motivate you to grow. Speaking up can be scary, but what happens when you stay quiet can be even scarier. Fear hampers growth, and you want to grow continuously in your life and in your career, and speaking up will help you pursue that growth.

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