There are times when we could kick ourselves aren't there! There was something we wanted to say, an opportunity to join in and contribute, but we hesitated and the moment passed. Irritatingly someone else may have even then inadvertently offered our pearls of wisdom and received a great response. If only we'd had the confidence to speak up!
At work finding the confidence to speak up can be a mixed blessing. If we put ourselves out there, with all that it entails will we then be regarded as someone who doesn't toe the line, a trouble maker or a know-it-all? Some people fear voicing opinions at work; might there be reprisals, could it jeopardise their promotion prospects, put a 'black mark' next to their name? As an employer it's important to provide an environment where staff feel safe to share ideas and concerns, knowing they'll be taken seriously.
Or, even worse, might something said be perceived as stupid or inappropriate and result in being ridiculed? Meetings and presentations can be especially vulnerable situations for someone who's feeling low on confidence. The prospect of standing up and having to speak out loud can be daunting.
In family and social settings many people prefer to avoid confrontation and keep quiet or go along with things, choosing it as the safest option. And, indeed, there are times when smiling and saying nothing is a preferred course of action. Not everything needs to be debated or analysed. But over time not speaking up can change a relationship's dynamics and affect its balance. Having open, respectful channels of communication can mean that nothings simmering or left unsaid and everyone feels included and valued, able to say what's on their minds.
The potential downside is that speaking up in close relationships can have long-term implications. Things said cannot be unsaid and may be taken out of context or used in future situations. Whether hurtful things are said deliberately or not it can make for ongoing unpleasantness. Or what about those times when we do speak up offering a valid point of view or when we don't agree and then find we're labelled difficult, awkward and uncompromising.
Tips for finding the confidence to speak up;
- When you've a meeting or presentation on the horizon improve your confidence by practicing speaking to a fake audience. Also this is a worthwhile exercise for when you've an anticipated difficult conversation ahead. Identify your key points and say them out loud so you're rehearsed, clear and au fait with the gist of what you want to say. Some people like to record themselves so that they know what they sound like and can refine how authoritatively they come across.
- Make time for things you do well and boost your confidence. That way, if you're stuck in a difficult situation at home, school or work you've got activities where you receive recognition, positive feedback and satisfaction. Could sport, a hobby or volunteering bring some happiness and joy into your life and result in improving your quality of life?
- Are people in your life drains or radiators? Some people drain your confidence and joy for life. They only ever see the bad, cannot be supportive, are maybe jealous of you and your enthusiasm and drive. If you can't avoid them be sure instead to protect yourself from too much exposure and minimise the time you spend in their company. Refuse to join them in negative or draining exchanges. Try to mix with people who radiate positive qualities like confidence, who share your outlook, who are equally committed to their dreams and encourage and support you in yours.
- Occasionally challenge your point of view by inviting other perspectives and discussing any contentious issues you may have to deal with. There may be another side to the story. Be prepared to consider different points of view, constructive criticism and feedback. A clearer thought process can improve your confidence.
- In disagreement situations own how you're feeling rather than blame others. It gives you a more confident stance. 'When this happens I feel', is far more constructive and less antagonistic than, 'you make me feel', which can cause the other person to feel under attack and become defensive. Avoid using lots of examples. They can distract and generate a merry-go-round of explanations, justifications and counter-claims.
- A neutral place is often a good idea when there's a difficult conversation to be had. It keeps a discussion on track and avoids it becoming loud or escalating out of control. You can stay calm and hold onto what you have to say without losing confidence or being concerned at things 'kicking off'.
- Sometimes a mediator can be useful, but has to be someone who both parties respect. Yes, there are professional negotiators available, but sometimes a trusted friend, neighbour, colleague or religious leader is able to do a good job and keep discussions relevant.
If confidence issues regularly surface consider hypnotherapy to deal with associated matters. Some people fear confrontation, want to be liked, are wary of upsetting others. Therapy can help you deal with any background factors like childhood influences or previous relationships, remedy underlying concerns, and enable you to move forward, so finding ways to speak up calmly, appropriately and with confidence.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit http://www.lifestyletherapy.net