When it comes to business meetings, I’ve always believed the old proverb “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.” But a new study is making me question that wisdom.
According to a study by Berkeley researchers Cameron Anderson and Gavin Kilduff, people who speak up and act dominant are perceived by others as being competent — even if they aren’t. People make judgments about you based on their perceptions and observations, and one way to alter their perceptions is to let your opinions be heard.
Joel Garfinkle, reporting on the research for Smartblogs.com, notes that speaking up is no substitute for true competence. “You can “fake it ’til you make it,” but if you lack the skills and traits needed to perform at your job, people will notice. That said, if you really are competent, speaking up will help everyone else see you as the valuable employee you are.”
Unfortunately, for many, speaking up isn’t easy. So here are a few tips to help you speak up:
- Realize you don’t need to have the perfect solution. Your idea doesn’t have to be the best one. You don’t even need to be right. You just need to be heard. As Julie Daum of Spencer Stuart says, “People write off people who don’t speak. If you don’t take up a little bit of airtime, people will assume you have nothing to contribute.”
- Don’t over think what you’re going to say. Many times, people try to refine their statements in their heads and end up missing the chance to say what they wanted to say. Don’t worry about making it perfect; just say it.
- You don’t have to be first. Just because someone else has already expressed the same idea doesn’t mean you can’t speak up. If a co-worker beats you to the punch, you can still voice your support for the idea. This can even give you an easy opening: “I agree with Jim because …” Once you have the floor, elaborate and share your personal insights.
- Speak up when you disagree. It’s even more important to speak up at work when your opinion differs from the majority. Conflicting viewpoints add depth to a discussion and help spark new and better ideas that take all sides of the issue into consideration.
Meetings and conference calls provide the perfect opportunity to start speaking up at work. You have expertise on topics related to your job, and it is critical that you share them whenever the opportunity arises. Make it a point to speak up at least once during each meeting. Not only will it make you appear more competent, it will get easier the more often you do it. And best of all, your confidence will grow.