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  • Writer's pictureJackie Booth

What's holding you back from speaking out?

A common theme amongst many of my clients is why they, as a woman, feel like they’re holding themselves back, especially when it comes to speaking out.

You might feel you lack the confidence or the authority to voice your opinions or you feel you don’t have anything new to contribute and don’t want be one of those people that talks for the sake of it.

Even worse, you may hold back because if you do speak out, you fear you won’t be listened to.

Early on in my career, I remember being in many meetings with executives, stakeholders, managers and directors and dreading speaking up and voicing my opinion even when I knew I had the facts and figures to back me up. I remember being so nervous that my heart was in my throat. But the discussions were always about something I was passionate about and I knew what I was talking about.

I found that the only way that fear goes away is to keep on speaking out; building your competence and your confidence each time.

Speaking out is easier said than done but here are three things you can consider that might help: Don’t compare yourself to others

It’s easy to be sucked into comparing yourself unfavourably to others.

You might look at other women chairing meetings efficiently and making it look easy.

You might see them holding their own when it comes to dealing with challenging situations and difficult people.

You might see them delivering projects and achieving successes, seemingly effortlessly.

But it’s important to remember that they all started exactly where you are now. They’ve had to learn and keep learning through practice and experience until they developed the style and the skills they have now.

Instead of comparing and looking at yourself in a negative light, look at what you like about how they lead. Ask them how they did it and what advice they can impart.

More importantly, look at yourself and what you have to offer.

There’s a reason you’re in the role you’re in - focus on your skills, your experience and knowledge and the contributions you’re already making, and use the comparison of others as fuel to push yourself further.

Don’t be held back by fear of judgement

It’s human nature to judge, we judge ourselves and we judge others. You might think people are judging you based on your age, your qualifications, your experience or even your appearance and they very may well be.

However it doesn’t always follow that they’re judging you negatively. Instead of focusing on the things you think are failings about yourself, take time to remember the positive.

If you are scared to speak out because of what people might think about you then a good way to reframe this is to consider the knowledge and strengths that are part of your skill.

There is a reason you are in the position you’re in and that’s because you have something unique and valuable to offer.

That’s doesn’t mean you have to be constantly drawing attention to what you’ve done in the past or what you are capable of now, but your experience will shine through in what you’re saying if you believe it’s valuable yourself.

Confidence starts with you and what you think about yourself.

Make a list of all your achievements, big or small. Consider the times when projects you were working on were successful, when you met challenging deadlines, the positive feedback you’ve received over the years.

And more importantly acknowledge these things to yourself so you start to build a bank of positive judgements to draw on to help you feel more confident about yourself, especially when you know you have to speak out about something.

Prepare something in advance

Another key to feeling confident is to be prepared. If you know there is something coming up in meeting you need to comment on, or are presenting on, then prepare what you’re going to say in advance. Same if there is someone who is going to be in attendance who always objects or asks questions. Consider what their concerns or objections might be and make a list of counter arguments.

You might not need them but having them in readiness will make you feel more confident when it comes to speaking out.

Be curious

Leadership is primarily about people and 80% of the success in any job will be based on your ability to deal with others, and more importantly to build relationships, particularly if you work with a group of stakeholders or customers.

In situations when you want to speak up but you’re not sure exactly what to say, then get curious and ask questions. This gives you time to marshal your thoughts, briefly takes the focus off you and additionally you may also learn something new and useful.

And an added benefit is that this works in social situations as well as in the workplace, people love talking about themselves and what they’re doing.

Next steps

If you want to know more about building your confidence, download my FREE e-guide all about the five essential confidence techniques to get noticed and get ahead, all without losing your authenticity.

Or if you would like the opportunity to chat about anything I’ve mentioned then book in a FREE 30 minute Clarity Call with me.

If you have any comments or queries about anything I’ve discussed in this blog, or have an idea for a topic, let me know – I love hearing from you.

Jackie x

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