There are times when it’s important to hold your tongue and think before you speak.  But there are also many times when you are working as a team when it’s imperative that you have the courage to speak up and speak the truth.  But how do you speak up in a constructive manner, particularly when it can be so scary?

No matter what stage you are in your career, having the difficult conversation is one of the most challenging skills to master.  All too often it become easier to take the soft route, that is:

  1. Say nothing, internalise any frustrations and hope that it goes away or someone else will do the dirty work for you; or
  2. Have a bitchy gossip in the kitchen whilst you make your cup of tea and let the office chinese whispers do the work for you; or
  3. Explode and moan over a glass of wine at home to your family and friends, the people who don’t even know the person or situation causing you grief.

So, what is the better option, why should you be courageous, and how do you do it?

  • Firstly, it’s important to realise that keeping quiet doesn’t help anyone, not yourself or the other person/situation involved.  And relying on chinese whispers is just a really long and complicated way that encourages distortion of the message and misalignment on expectations.
  • Be constructive in your feedback, and choose your time wisely!  Don’t pull someone aside whilst they are running out the door to another meeting, schedule a meeting and be prepared to discuss the situation openly and honestly.  Remember to keep above the line and come to the meeting with possible solutions as well.  This is important as the purpose of having the conversation shouldn’t be to vent but to come up with viable solutions that can work for and benefit all parties.
  • Don’t be afraid of speaking up – even if you need to speak up with a manager!  They may already be aware of the situation, or alternatively, they may have been presented with a completely opposing view. Regardless, they will value your input in discussing the situation openly and honestly, as long as you come prepared with constructive solutions, facts and sound reasoning.

The payoff in speaking up can not be underestimated. Your stress levels, the people around you and your organisation can all benefit from a proactive and courageous approach to having the difficult conversations.  If you don’t, remember that nothing will change nor will your frustration levels subside.  Bring it to the surface and watch is dissipate over time!