Those who attend my Building Trust communication workshops have said they appreciate my practical, down-to-earth suggestions – which, thankfully, are all I know how to give. Readers who are curious about the theory behind them will have to remain so. Here’s a question I received recently. Many of us face this all-too-common challenge:

blogtextDear Bottled:

Boy do I know this dilemma; I even have my own personal measurement system for it. If I spend more than two minutes in the car ride home reliving the conversation in my mind, kicking myself for what I should have said, then I know I blew it. Sometimes I ruminate about it all evening. I vow, once again, to speak up the next time! But enough about me. Before I go into my real answer to your question, I think we first need to clear away some brush. As a more naturally reticent communicator, you’ve probably been given kudos most of your life for being a patient, attentive listener. Many of us gain friends, influence, and a certain amount of self-worth through the genuine value of letting others be heard – and I would be the last person to discourage this.

But think about the cases when you are not speaking your mind. You may look like you are listening, but my guess is you are actually:
  • Mentally calming an emotional reaction to what’s been said,
  • Formulating your response “just so”,
  • Waiting for the perfect time to jump in (which never quite comes),
  • Wondering whether you are politically entitled to share,
  • Deciding if you can trust the other person with your honest opinion,
  • Fearing an adverse reaction (outburst, embarrassment, etc.), or even
  • Looking for a way to bail out of an unpleasant conversation.

So you don’t engage and another opportunity to connect with others slips past. This isolation can be extremely frustrating, especially since others seem to glide through difficult subjects with ease.Removing The Cork

corkWhen we were infants, we knew how to get our needs met. Ask any mom. We did not need the “right” words, or that special moment in time: we communicated just fine. No, I’m not advocating tantrums in a business meeting! I merely state the obvious – that when we give ourselves permission to communicate, and when this need is stronger than our desire to maintain the current “peace and quiet” of the status quo, then we already own the tools to convey our thoughts. We need only use them.

Bottled Up, you’ve shared a clue to some of your own self-talk in how you phrased your question. You wonder “whether my experience and expertise warrants my giving my views,” like you need outside approval to speak up. The truth is that no one can grant you this, except yourself. The good news is that when the discomfort of not getting your needs met is strong enough to overcome your silence, you will talk. So I suggest that you begin to gradually replace unhelpful internal dialog with more enabling messages such as:
  • I know I’m a polite person; I need not fear giving offense.
  • For the sake of the team, others need to hear what I think.
  • I can speak my mind with caring and respect.
  • Right now is the best (and perhaps only) opportunity to speak up.
  • I am not responsible for how others react to my opinions.
  • I don’t want to relive this conversation in the car. It’s game time.

peptalkAthletes get pep talks before the big game for a reason. The next time you know you’re going to face a situation when you might fall back into old habits of quietness, run through some power-giving affirmations like these beforehand. You might surprise some people. Most of all, yourself.

Thanks for being a part of Building Trust’s ongoing trust-building and communications dialog. Practice sharing your opinion by commenting on this post below!

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