Some of us (me) are hard-wired to speak up. Lots of other people aren’t. But even if you’re predisposed to speaking your mind, sometimes we (I) miss the mark. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or at a breaking point, I think it’s time to ask a different question. Is your voice really being heard?
I had a friend who would cut a couple of her colleagues to shreds in a private conversation with me. She could identify all the ways in which they were not doing their jobs and failing to provide the appropriate support. She said that she was speaking up and simply not being listened to, but I wondered if it was more than that.
Then she reached her breaking point. The stress overwhelmed her, and she broke down in tears while talking to me. We talked about it, and she finally admitted she wasn’t really trying very hard to get them to do something different. She would have rather crawled under the table than say anything to them directly. Confrontation was just too hard. That is, until she reached the point of feeling like she might quit if things didn’t change. Finally, she was able to think about how to approach the conversation with them and make her voice heard.
Not holding back, but focused on the wrong things
I’ve had the opposite experience. I might not hold back on speaking up as much as I should. But my speaking up is not always effective. I sometimes have a way of getting mad and being vocal about everything except what the real problem is. When that happens, my voice isn’t really being heard any more than my friend’s.
Take a step back from the situation you find frustrating. You might be too close to see what’s at the root cause of your frustration. Is it the person? Is there a buildup and this is just the latest “thing”? What are all the possible causes of how you’re feeling?
Once you identify the root cause, you can think about what outcome you want. That might help you think more objectively about the approach most likely to get you there. And once you’ve got the approach, you’re on your way to having your voice really heard.