Are you left with an empty speech bubble in the workplace? The anxiety of voicing an opinion is common, but it can be overcome.

Seen and not heard? How to speak up in the workplace

The majority of workplaces consist of characters from across the spectrum of society. Naturally, there can be personality clashes that quickly become apparent. The most negative in terms of impacting productivity are those who constantly ensure their opinions are heard – whether they’re right or wrong!

However, just as detrimental to the performance of the workplace is those who don’t speak up. If you’re one of those people who feels anxious when asked to voice a concern or opinion, you’re not alone.

Controlling anxiety is as easy as breathing, literally.

Moreover, overcoming the fear doesn’t necessarily have to be laborious. Effective communication comes naturally to some, but nearly all can learn it. When it comes to conquering a fear of speaking up, Stanford University suggested that it’s best to identify why the audience isn’t scary.

A world of calm

It’s human nature to get anxious at certain times. However, once those feelings wash over you, getting them in check is the real skill. The research from Stanford University surmised that it’s as easy as breathing.

Borrow a few ideas from the world of yoga, and be mindful of your inhaling and exhaling. Not only will this take your mind off the situation at hand, it’ll help instill a sense of calm, too.

Why be afraid?

As touched on, the fear of speaking will likely be far more stressful than talking to an audience itself. Of course, the two things go hand in hand, but why are people so afraid to speak up at work?

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggested that it’s down to self-preservation. The fear of not wanting to say something that could come back to negatively impact your workplace standing will often be strong. However, HBR also explained that information that could help an organisation is lost when employees adopt this mentality.

So, as an individual, think of it this way: What you’re afraid to say may seem a little out there, but it can help you progress your business, and will likely lead to acclaim from peers, as well.

All HAIL good communication

If you faced the fear, what’s the next step in ensuring everything you’re trying to get across is heard? Well, the simple answer is to HAIL which stands for:

  • Honesty: Be clear, concise and straight in your convictions.
  • Authenticity: Don’t judge yourself on anyone’s expectations, other than your own.
  • Integrity: Do what you say, and be somebody people can trust.
  • Love: Not in the romantic sense, but be someone who wishes others well.

The HAIL concept is explored in more depth by self-proclaimed ‘Master of Sound’ Julian Treasure in this video:

Ultimately, it’s only natural to be a little anxious when speaking assertively in the workplace. Whether it’s an instance of addressing a handful of peers, or even a larger conference-like setting, getting your emotions in check and really assessing what you’re fearful of is the first step in delivering a memorable, stress-free monologue.

If you’d like to learn more about putting your best foot forward when communicating at work, consider the Speak Up, Be Heard and Feel Confident course on offer from ICML.


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