Speak your Mind Confidently

By Honey Patel

Growing up, I didn’t speak my mind. Particularly because no one asked me what I thought or how I felt about something. I was scared of speaking what was ‘really’ on my mind because I was afraid of whether it’s acceptable to speak my mind, afraid of being wrong or judged for thinking something, and afraid of how people would respond if I truly, I mean truly, told them how I felt. This fear was present at home, at school, with friends. Little did I know, speaking my mind and laying it out would be a strength in my career.

When you don’t speak your mind, you become an observer, and that is what I did the first couple of years in my career. I observed how a company ran, how people think, feel, work, and most importantly what people say. A consistent aha moment was when I would hear a person say exactly what the other person wanted to hear, and not what they truly wanted to say. People weren’t lying, they were just dressing up the content and in that, the essence of the message was lost. It didn’t bother me much, until it was hindering our performance. One thing I have always been good at is being productive, driving results, and making sure things got done flawlessly. Now that I think about it, this is the quality that helped me overcome the fear of my voice.

This was not an overnight journey, it took me some time, but it was fast tracked by one particular job and one particular leader. I was a Director of Corporate Development at a legal technology company and I reported to the CEO of the company. He was a great boss, mentor and friend. In communicating with him daily and being around him, I learned to speak up and developed my voice. The voice that helped me speak in anyone’s presence, the voice that eliminated dressing up the communication, but instead delivering a clear, direct, and truthful message. As I changed jobs, I started developing similar relationships and rapport that allowed me to speak openly, directly, and most importantly, confidently. At present day, I head up Business Operations, Sales Operations, User Experience, and Learning for a cloud platform company focused on IoT solutions. The crux of the relationship with my boss is having very open, direct, and honest dialogue about anything and everything. I have consistently been called for and valued for being the person that is direct, open, and has a say at the table.

As I reflect on this strong skill, I want to share a few pointers with you to develop your voice:

  1. Build relationships with the right people, especially the ones who are willing to listen and help you foster your voice. In every role, I have built relationships with stakeholders at different levels. I have made them comfortable with being direct and open with me, and they have enabled me to reciprocate.
  2. Be honest. A lot of times, you need to be vocal because there is conflict or something is not working. Focus on the issue at hand and be honest about what you think, feel, and observe, and be sure to differentiate between your opinion and showing the facts.
  3. What you say is only 50% of the message, the other 50% is how you say it. In this, you have to find the right balance between clear and succinct communication and an effective tone.
  4. Let go of misconceptions. We don’t speak what we feel or think because we are worried about gender, age, position, etc. Speak as though you are two human beings who don’t have any judgements or filters and are conversing for the greater good.
  5. Listen. A big part of having a voice is listening to people and understanding situations. Knowing what to say based on what you hear is as important as using your voice.

Your voice is apart of your personality, so you have to take the time to know it, build it, and to use it effectively. Early in my career, I have a managed to deal with crucial situations and resolve difficult problems because I have learned to have a voice. A voice without fear, a voice that is direct and open, and a voice that people are willing to listen to.

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