How To Overcome Your Fear of Speaking Up at Work (With Tips)
Speaking up at work enables you can share your ideas, express your opinions and ask insightful questions. If you fear public speaking, you can work to overcome your fear so you feel more comfortable sharing your ideas, opinions and concerns. Practicing public speaking can also help you develop your confidence in articulating your thoughts in front of your coworkers and supervisors.
In this article, we explain the importance of speaking up at work, describe instances when it's appropriate to speak publicly and share steps and tips for overcoming your fear of speaking up.
Why is it important to speak up at work?
Speaking up at work is important because it can allow you to build meaningful relationships with your coworkers and engage more with your job tasks. For example, if you and a group of employees are collaborating on a project, you can share solutions to problems that you've brainstormed and deliver a perspective that benefits the task by speaking up.
Professionals on your team may respect your authority as a leader when you communicate your expectations and take responsibility for your actions publicly. You can also expand your influence when you share instructions and tips for completing assignments in the workplace.
When is it appropriate to speak up at work?
Here are elements to consider so you can recognize when it's appropriate to speak up at work:
Your role in the work environment can determine if your feedback can be helpful. If you have thoughts you want to share, think about if your intended audience can benefit from hearing what you have to say. For example, you and your teammates are conceptualizing a new product to appeal to a new demographic of consumers. Since you're a member of the team and have experience in developing products, you're confident that your coworkers want to learn about your ideas for adapting existing products and targeting prospective buyers.
Channeling the perspective of your audience can help you decide if your role means you can avoid speaking up. For instance, an associate in another department confides in you that their team is experiencing challenges adjusting to a new company policy. You learned this insight in confidence, and you don't have firsthand knowledge of the conflict since you work in a different part of the company. You conclude that it's best that you don't share the information unless your immediate supervisor asks you about it directly.
Leadership and culture
When you vocalize your feelings publicly at work, the professionals who listen to you may be in leadership positions. Anticipating their response can help you decide if it's worthwhile to speak up. You can also think about the culture of the workplace. If managers encourage employees to express themselves in public settings, then you can conclude that they may be receptive to your communication.
Consider if it's possible to meet with managers one-on-one so you can say how you feel privately. Contemplating the potential reaction to your speech can allow you to make informed decisions about when and where to speak up. Corporate culture is also unique to every workplace, so your ultimate decision may vary.
Related: 8 Types of Culture in the Workplace
The situation that inspires you to speak up can also influence whether you use your voice. Recognize the setting where you want to share your thoughts and the timing. For example, if you've observed that one of your associates has missed deadlines, then you can conclude that the situation is sensitive, so you schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss it. If you want to highlight high-quality work from a team member, the situation is celebratory, so you make sure you have the biggest audience possible.
When considering whether to speak up at work, you might think about the potential outcomes. This may also help you determine which approach to use if you decide to voice your opinion. Some strategies for considering outcomes include:
Writing pros and cons
Acknowledging both perspectives
Understanding your emotions and biases
How to overcome a fear of speaking up
If you have a fear of speaking up in the workplace, you may overcome your fear by going through this process one step at a time:
1. Identify an idea or concern
Think about the idea or concern you want to share. If you aren't sure how you might articulate this to your teammates or leadership, you may brainstorm a list of different ways to share your input. This can include examples of what you plan to say or when and where you plan to speak up. You might even think of different ways to address multiple items if there's more than one idea or concern you want to share.
2. Analyze benefits and value
Create a list of the pros and cons of speaking up to help you make an informed choice about whether to offer your opinion. Contemplating pros and cons can allow you to examine all the details and recognize the benefits you may experience, such as becoming a team leader, achieving conflict resolution or implementing business changes. If the positive elements outnumber the potentially negative ones, then you may feel better about verbalizing your opinion in front of a group.
3. Rationalize and consider cost determination
Rationalization and cost determination refer to analyzing the reasoning for speaking up at work and acknowledging the potential costs or effects. The reasoning for wanting to speak up can depend on the individual and their specific situation, so consider the consequences related to your unique circumstances. Then, writing a list of potential outcomes can help you determine the effects of speaking up, which your workplace culture and leadership may influence. With this information, you can make an informed decision.
4. Practice the presentation
If you choose to speak up at work, create a plan for sharing your thoughts. You might consider location or timing. For example, if you speak up in a brainstorming meeting at work, you may sit where people can see you rather than behind other employees. You also can project and articulate as you speak to ensure that everyone can clearly understand what you are saying or adding to the conversation. Consider practicing what you plan to say or write notes to help you feel more confident.
Tips for overcoming a fear of speaking up
Overcoming a fear of speaking up may take time, but there are some helpful tips that can help you feel more comfortable, including:
Choose the format, such as a face-to-face meeting or email, that you're most comfortable with.
Understand why your idea or concern is important and feel confident about sharing that information.
Select strategies to help you stay receptive to other perspectives when voicing your idea or concern.
Remember that feeling nervous can mean that you care about what you're choosing to discuss at work.
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