What keeps us from speaking up?
Is it fear of confrontation?
Fear or looking silly?
Fear of repercussions?
Just don’t want to rock the boat?
If you have kids or have been around them much, you’ve probably spent some time encouraging them to speak up. “Ask for what you need.” “Use words to tell me what you want.” My own kids have heard this more than a few times.
Recently, in a burst of angst, my 14-year-old daughter admitted she had gotten a D on an algebra test … She’s typically a B student in math, but formulas fly out of her head and she panics at the sight of word problems. She’s also hesitant to ask more than one or two questions in class about the day’s lesson because it makes her “feel dumb.” In a classroom full of eyes—who wouldn’t?
Our conversation about this particular test was different though ….
After explaining what happened, she continued … with a plan to fix the situation. She was going to talk to her teacher about retaking the test. I asked her what she was planning to say, and she had already considered this. And had … a plan. I encouraged her but reminded her that the teacher didn’t have to allow this. She might need to make a case for why. She nodded. And without knowing how that future conversation was going to go, she started studying the formulas (so they would stay put even in a panic) in case the teacher let her have the retake.
At midday the next day, she texted me and said she had just finished the test and felt she had done a better job. This brave and careful plan of attack gets an “A” from her mom … no matter how she does.
Speaking up takes courage.
People often don’t know what you need or want. They aren’t necessarily going to treat you the way you’d like or offer you the things you need, unless you speak up.
Situations where we are called upon to be assertive in business are frequent. My daughter’s test-taking incident reminds us of 5 keys to being assertive at work:
- Don’t wait. If a work situation is stressing you out, making you uncomfortable or feeling unfair, say something.
- Don’t make a big deal about everything you don’t like or want. Consider carefully how important speaking up is.
- Build strong relationships. When you need something, you can always fall back on your reputation of being reliable and a hard worker.
- Be kind and unassuming. No one wants to be forced to do something.
- Be prepared. Document information and have specific reasons for your request.
Assertiveness is a powerful business tool. Being assertive will help you be more satisfied and happier at work. Go on. Your mom would be proud.
Related articles: Being Assertive Is All About Choosing the Best Words
Related article: How to Stay Assertive Around Intimidating People