Speak No Evil, Say No Evil
The saying doesn’t quite go like that, but it says a lot for why women might prefer to keep quiet. Well, I don’t speak for us all, but here are a couple of scenarios that have gone in my head before…
They don’t care about what I have to say
They can’t hear me
I don’t really know what I’m talking about
I don’t want to run the risk of sounding dumb
What I feel doesn't matter
They’ll think I’m inadequate if I admit I don’t know how to do this
I’m sure I’ve had more little voices in my head, but these are the ones that come to mind immediately and I’ve thought on multiple occasions.
I had a conversation with a coworker about finding her voice. She is an amazing designer, very smart and thoughtful with her creation and always has great ideas to contribute to the conversation. She’ll sometimes ping me with her thoughts (while we’re in the same room for the brainstorm) or speaks at a decibel that rarely registers to the human ear. The funny thing is that she’s 12 years younger than me, and is very aware that it’s something she needs to work on, which is impressive to me because I never outright admitted that to anyone.
My advice to her, is that she’ll know when she’s found her voice. She will gain confidence that words hold merit and they deserved to be heard. The fact that she’s cognizant that it’s something she needs to work on is a huge step, and the comfortability to speak up will come with time.
Personally, I respect a person who is thoughtful when they speak quietly, than someone who talks loudly simply to be heard. I say this as someone who is sometimes quiet in meetings, and it’s not because I feel it’s better I’m seen and not heard, it’s that I am a thoughtful speaker and prefer not to say something for the sake of making my presence heard.
I’ve talked about the verbal, audible voice, but I wanted to cover off on “speaking up,” in general. Here, it’s not how loud you are, but the moments when you decide to say something.
The way I look at this is that these are the times you have difficult conversations. Topics around how you’re feeling, being overwhelmed, not liking the way you’re being treated, wanting a raise - it is all the hard conversations you rather not have because of one (or all) of the bullets above.
What I’m about to say might sound a little hokey, but “gut check.” For me, it boils down to this question - “Does this sit right with me?” And if the answer is “no,” then I explore options in how I can fix that. Who can I speak to? How can I organize my thoughts in a way that helps me clearly articulate what I’m feeling to solicit the help that I need?
Because this will not be an easy conversation to have, the last question is very important in my opinion, and again, goes back to being thoughtful. It’s like going to the doctors with a journal of symptoms so they can better diagnose your issue. :) It also helps to garner credibility and gives your voice gravitas to be taken seriously.
Know that you’re feelings are important, you are well respected and you possess the courage to make your situation better by speaking up which I think of as taking action and control of the outcome of your life. In both cases, don’t forget your shine, girl. ;)