Striking a balance between speaking your mind and staying quiet can be tricky. Speak up too much and too loudly and you can be viewed as arrogant and too sure of yourself. Don’t speak up enough and people will assume that you don’t have any good ideas to contribute to a discussion, and don’t know enough.
But you should never be afraid to speak up, and let people know your thoughts. And don’t be afraid to keep your thoughts to yourself when the situation doesn’t require your input. If you’re having trouble trying to decide what you should try to do in your everyday work situation, check out the pros of both!
When you stay silent in a meeting or during important parts of a conversation, people tend to think that means you approve of whatever they’re presenting. Of course, about 50% of the time that’s not the case. In a situation where someone is saying ideas that you don’t agree with, it’s best to speak up and voice your reservations or disapproval.
What keeps most of us from speaking up when we should is a fear that what we say will sound dumb, or won’t add to the conversation in any viable way. But that kind of thinking prevents new ideas from being brought to the table. You could be holding back an idea that no one has thought about yet. And chances are, there’s going to be someone else that agrees with what you’re saying, and will back you up so you aren’t alone in your idea.
People that are in supervising positions over you also tend to view speaking up as a positive skill to have. I know on some of my past reviews at jobs I’ve been told that speaking up at meetings is something that I should try to do more often, because managers like to hear what their employees have to say (or at least a GOOD manager likes that). Speaking up more often could lead to more opportunities being opened up for you in the future.
I’m an introvert by nature, which doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me when I don’t speak up. I just prefer to think about an idea and digest it more before I speak, in most cases. So, that makes it really hard for me to speak up sometimes, but I’ve really nailed the whole “keeping silent” thing in meetings. But, keeping silent shouldn’t be viewed as a negative trait.
Sometimes, it really does benefit you to not speak up during a meeting, and to instead, listen and digest the info more cohesively.
In no job is it more important to keep quiet and listen then in a customer service position, where listening to a customer’s complaints and helping them is literally in the job description. You don’t want to talk over the customer, and you definitely don’t want them to view you as arrogant or off-putting for not listening to their complaints, and working to fix the problem. Less is more, as the saying goes.
But what if you’re in the middle of a big meeting, where you’re expected to throw ideas around with your other coworkers? In these situations, I usually take notes and write down some thoughts that I could possibly bring up later if someone calls on me to tell me what they think. Don’t ever say “I don’t know,” because, in reality, you do know, you just don’t feel comfortable expressing it in front of big groups of people. Always be prepared to have an answer when someone asks you to speak, and if you still don’t feel comfortable bringing something up in front of a larger group, you can always ask to have a discussion with someone one-on-one. I always find one-on-one conversations easier than bigger ones.
There’s no right or wrong way to handle conversations; both speaking up and keeping silent both have their merits. You just have to work to find the right balance between them, and when you finally do, you’ll have no problem effectively communicating with colleagues, customers, and your manager!