How to speak your truth with power and confidence

How To Speak Your Truth With Power and Confidence

Speaking your truth matters when you believe in it wholeheartedly and the truth is of significance to you personally.

When to speak

Before you start speaking, be clear about what you believe in and what drives you. The context is relevant. In a workplace setting, speaking your truth can be disruptive, seen as challenging, controversial or more. What you see as your truth may be viewed differently by others.

We rarely need to boost our courageous self in order to speak a positive truth. Speaking up often comes into play when the things we need to discuss or share have the potential to create friction, uncertainty, disruption or change for those who you believe need to hear the message.

So what are some ways you can speak your truth with power and confidence?

Overcome fear

This is often one of the biggest obstacles faced when speaking up. There may be fear about a number of different things – fear of reprisal, of consequence, of reaction and feedback, of potential loss and of impact on credibility. There is the fear of how you are perceived by colleagues, leaders and others whose opinions you value. This fear can be debilitating. It may lead you to consider all the ways in which speaking up can go wrong, and therefore, you choose the safer route of silence.

However, fear can be overcome with deliberate practice and preparation.

Practise, practise, practise

Communicating with others is a journey that is fraught with many unknowns. Communicating with one or many is the classic example of the iceberg. You only see what is presented to you and much is unknown and unseen. Much is left to be understood. After all, communication is never only about the message you seek to deliver.

Who are you communicating with? Is this a colleague or an organisational leader? Their position in relation to the organisation can impact their response to what is shared. Consider possible situations that your audience may be facing at the time of the conversation. There may be challenges on the home front, personal mishaps or delicate circumstances that they may be facing privately which others are not aware of. These situations can greatly impact their response. 

You also need to consider the impact of societal norms, the organisational culture and the power dynamic within. These factors are often not discussed or acknowledged. However, when a situation unfolds, these seen and ‘unseen’ factors merge to create a fairly complex situation, producing a myriad number of possible responses that the individual who speaks up will need to manage efficiently.

We come to our experiences with our own lens instinctively and we often believe others see what we see, feel what we feel but that’s certainly not the case.

If you are able to see these underlying conditions that others bring to any discourse, you are able to better present your case, so to speak, in a way that addresses these factors.

What preparation looks like

  1. Be clear about what you want to say

It seems easy enough but being clear about what you choose to share is important. Perhaps, this is best exemplified by understanding what happens when you are not clear. 

When you do not have a clear idea of what you want to share, you may get easily distracted by other related or unrelated topics. If you delve into the other topics, there is a risk that your primary message is diluted or misunderstood. There is a risk that you devalue or lessen the impact of your most important message.

The clarity of knowing just what to say and how, comes with practice, and in understanding the distinction between your primary and secondary messages. It involves knowing your message inside out, enough so that you can expand on it if called upon to elaborate but also, enough to provide a minute-long elevator pitch.

Practice can be achieved through writing.

Communicate over and over the ideas that you seek to share, write it out in long form. Find ways to support, distil or enhance your message. Communicate it in different ways and address different responses and objections. Think clearly about who your audience is as this helps you refine that message further.

Know clearly what you want to say and how you’d like to present it.

We come to our experiences with our own lens instinctively and we often believe others see what we see, feel what we feel but that’s certainly not the case.

  1. Have a plan for how this information should be presented

Presentation is as important as substance. Poor delivery of a great message hinders reception, removes focus from what is truly important and can lose the audience almost from the start. Presentation is a loose term to cover a myriad number of issues.

How you dress and carry yourself impacts your communication effort. The confidence you ooze and the perception you create in the audience’s mind add to the overall message delivery. Conversely, your hesitation, tone and body language also convey messages which may conflict with or enhance the spoken message.

Then, there is the delivery of the message. What tone is your message delivered in? Is the tone caring or authoritative? Is the tone conservative, coarse or casual? Your pitch refers to the relative highness or lowness of the tone used. We naturally use a range of pitches to convey different meanings.

There is also the energy you bring: is it high or low energy? Is your energy sucking the air out of the room or are you bubbling over with enthusiasm and positivity?

A good speaker, naturally, considers all these varying elements, controlling as much as they can of each, to create as much of a controlled environment that supports the delivery of their message.

  1. Address the unasked questions

By now, you would have realised that speaking up also involves becoming a good speaker. When you hone the skills to speak well, it makes a noticeable difference in how your message is received.

Inevitably, you must come to terms with and ensure that you understand your audience. If you can tailor the message to suit or take into account the idiosyncrasies of your audience, it helps. This does not mean you adjust it completely to your audience – you are not seeking to please.

But you understand who you are raising this with and are aware of possible reactions and feedback. Addressing your  audience’s unasked questions or fears will go some way to strengthening your message.

Be prepared by evaluating all the ways in which your speaking up can be met with objections, criticism, negativity or other feedback.

  1. Pick the right time to speak up

You cannot wait for the perfect set of circumstances that support you speaking up. Often, the act itself is challenging and so, there will often not be a time when it seems right to speak up. That said, ensure that as many things line up to support you while you speak up.

In a workplace context, this may involve reviewing whether there is any other catastrophic or urgent matter being tabled, any safety or health concerns being raised at the time or other matter of priority and where this sits alongside what you need to raise.

  1. Lay the foundation

Approach the act of speaking up as you would a presentation because it is one (in a way). The purpose of this approach is to ensure you consider how to present your information. Incorporate storytelling to help provide context and assist the audience in understanding the issues at hand. Be clear, set the context. Do not assume they know anything.

Start with the outcome intended and work backwards from there. Punctuate with headlines, where able, to retain the audience’s attention. Keep the message simple by sticking to one main message. The more there is to listen to, to digest, the harder it is for the audience to know what to focus on.

Assist your audience to get to the conclusion intended.

  1. Look for allies and advocates

Consider less whether it’s the right or wrong time to raise the issue especially when it’s an issue of importance. Think instead of how successful you can be in putting your message across.

When you communicate, you seek to share your thoughts and feelings. You seek to effect change and even create a certain result or behaviour. Work backwards from your goal to examine how best to achieve this.

Getting support from others can be useful especially in the lead-up to your decision to speak up. When those around you can understand what you seek to do, they can advocate, amplify or add credibility. But if your speaking up is important and has wider consequences, the lack of allies and advocates will not stop what you need to do.

7. The foundation

Finally, one of the best ways in which you can support your speaking up on an issue of significance is to lay the foundational stone. Let your profile and advocacy speak for you before you even raise the issue.

For example, if you are a firm believer in diversity and inclusion, there are a few things you can do even before any situation comes about that you have an issue to speak up on. Your LinkedIn profile can speak to your areas of interest. Incorporate relevant hashtags and refer to the topic in your about and headline features. Perhaps, write a few articles or posts on the issue itself. All of these things can pave the way for your wider audience understanding the issues, behaviours or practices you advocate for. Use your voice beforehand to clearly communicate (and reinforce) your message.

Now, let’s wrap all of this up.

The goal is to be able to speak your truth but not just to speak up but to do so with power and confidence so that it creates the impact you desire. There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself before you speak up such as learn ways to overcome your fear, engaging in deliberate practice, being clear about what you want to say, considering the ways you can present or package the information, addressing potential objections even before these are raised, picking the right time to speak, identifying allies and advocates and achieving some clarity on your audience.  If you are able to do work on these areas, you will be prepared to speak your truth with power and confidence.

#influence #communication #speakup #bodyofwork

 

Rowena Morais

Editorial Communications and Content Specialist

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