There’s a saying in Canada about the US election that if you didn’t vote, you automatically voted for Trump. There may be reasons that will come up after some qualitative research, but until we hear them, we can only speculate.
Likewise, in this common scene in the product design world, a sprint retrospective happens at regular intervals. This offers an open forum for every member of the cross-functional team to move forward in pursuit of process improvement. When asked for thoughts or post-it notes about what to discuss, some sit in silence, despite having a contrasting opinion. Think about the chance to express your improvement idea as the opportunity cost of not saying anything.
Communication is our only ally to giving others an understanding of our reasoning. It’s what connects us to each other’s hearts and minds. If you don’t say anything, you’ll never definitively know if you align with others.
At first glance, it may seem painfully obvious but may not be for some. There have been many moments in my career and in life where I’ve connected with talkative, genuine, and smart people 1-on-1, who stay silent in meetings. It often behooves me to want to bring things up on their behalf but I can’t always represent the opinions of others. They need to step up on their own.
This is not about how introverted you are. (because it’s not even how introversion is defined) . This shyness and fear of criticism can cripple you personally and professionally through missed opportunities.
Close your eyes and make that leap, friends!
I too struggle with moments like this, even as an extrovert, with my writing. Half of the challenge is just hitting Publish and seeing what happens next.
Here are key moments in life where you should definitely speak up.
If you have a Question
There’s no such thing as a silly question. If you really don’t understand something, ask for clarification. No one should judge you for not picking up something right away. Only you can inform others about your learning style. It’s also better to ask early and often, as asking too late can sometimes delay the creative process further.
If you Disagree
Sometimes sticking with the status quo is the safe approach. Agreeing to something, especially if you strongly disagree on the inside could lead to withheld resentment. It’s okay to hold an opinion that’s different. This paves the way for an open discussion.
If you need to express your feelings
There are times in life when you experience strong emotions. This may be a case when you want to calm down and express yourself after. How many times have we watched movies or TV scenes where one person hides his or her affection from the other? Don’t live in regret.
If you have a strong opinion
Bring it up! As long as you talk about it, you’ll know if your thoughts are on the right track. It’s better to express yourself.
If you are negotiating your salary
You’ll never know your worth unless you ask.
If others are bothering you
These types of encounters need not end in conflict or passive aggression. Maybe that other person isn’t aware of what is actually happening. Most are willing to accommodate simply because you’ve made your grievance known.
While this may not be an exhaustive list, I truly hope it has been helpful for you. To be more inclusive, when I say speak, I mean to express in any communication form you are comfortable with.
Perhaps, like me, you just aren’t as strong of an auditory learner. You may be the type to forget your thought or question during a meeting (Yes, true confession – this has happened to me a few times) Start bringing a notebook and write it down before you forget. You’ll definitely look smarter for it!
Next time you have something to say, just say it.