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Speak Up with Confidence: the Art of Fearless Communication


Speaking up with confidence at work

Have you stopped yourself from speaking your mind in group settings? 

What was going through your mind?

My clients tell me that when that happens, one of the following concerns often fill their minds:

  • People will think my opinion is stupid or useless.

  • Nobody cares what I think.

  • What if my opinion is wrong?

  • What if my opinion changes? What happens to my credibility then? 

  • Am I even sure about what I’m about to say?

  • What if I can’t respond to follow-up comments/questions/concerns?


Besides using energies, gestures, facial and bodily expressions, humans use speech to express ourselves. We can choose to exhibit the level of assertiveness, (perceived) confidence and power through our communication.

Often, we put so much importance on what we say (the language) that we forget the bigger part of communication: how we say it. 


While working with clients in my coaching sessions, I’ve realized that feeling insecure, lacking confidence, and doubting one’s opinions are common experiences among professionals of all ages and backgrounds. This phenomenon likely stems from our innate fear and survival instincts. Our ancient brain still perceives rejection by our social group as a threat to our survival, as it once meant being unable to hunt or farm alone, leading to ostracization and ultimately death. However, in the modern world, the risk of such extreme consequences due to disapproval is minimal. Although concerns about hindering career advancement and therefore acquiring fewer resources (aka money, status and power) persist, it’s essential to recognize that disapproval of our opinions does not equate to disapproval of worth as individuals. It probably goes deeper down to issues of self-worth and self-esteem, topics we can delve into more in detail in another post.


Here is a general rule of thumb that I offer (of course, with an open hand) to my clients who express that they want to be more confident in their communication and not shy away when something needs to be articulated, even when they are appointed to speak on the spot in group settings:

  • Be kind. As the saying goes, people will remember how you made them feel much longer than whether what you said was right or wrong. Whether you were right or wrong, or unsure, deliver it in a kind manner, and you will be regarded as someone with character, which is much more striking than any single opinion you are trying to express.

  • Be truthful. Say as much as you know, and when you don’t know something, say so. People trust those who are honest about what they don’t know much more than those who pretend to have all the answers. It’s fine to say, “I don’t have an answer to that yet, but I can get back to you when I know more” or “I’m not sure if I’m able to give a concrete answer to that at the moment, but so far here is what we know: XYZ”

  • It’s OK to be in the grey zone; you don’t have to have a black-and-white opinion. If you try to stand on either side, especially when you are called on the spot to give an opinion in front of a group, it can be very stressful. A lot of the time, we are not all in or all out, nor are we all here or there. It’s OK to admit that you are a little bit here and a bit more there at the moment, and that you might change your stance as you gather more information. You could sound more diplomatic by giving pros and cons, and your likes and dislikes of both sides.

  • Focus on benefiting others.  When we are so focused on ourselves and making ourselves look smart, this brings a lot of pressure: pressure to speak intelligently, pressure to give the “correct” answers, etc. This comes from fear—fear of being judged, passed over for a promotion, and losing opportunities. When you focus on others and the betterment of the group as a whole—treating them with kindness, being compassionate towards their stance, thinking about what would serve everyone as a group/society—then you are speaking out of LOVE, not fear. This energy will transmit through your communication: in words, body language, facial expressions, and other subtle elements.


Lastly, and probably just as importantly, remember that we are all winging it to a certain extent (even the loudest person in the room). We are all improvising the best way we can—in speech, in life, at work, and in our personal lives. Even in extremely important things like parenting, more often than not, we don’t have all the answers. And many times, there isn’t a correct answer. Only the correct manner to respond; we try our best with the information and intuition we have, in the kindest and truest way possible.


With love,

S

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