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Shy at work? It's time to speak up

Career Tips By Tania Ngima

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This has happened to the best of us. You are in a room full of equally smart people, you feel as if you belong. As the conversation or presentation starts, the speaker asks a question that you are absolutely sure of the answer to.

But just before you raise your hand or give your response, a small nagging voice in your head stops you. You could be wrong, and that would be very embarrassing, people could laugh at you.

Then someone else responds with even less finesse than you would have and you discover your answer was right all along. So you spend the rest of the meeting beating yourself up for not speaking up and feeling like a failure.

Speaking up is not something that comes naturally to us women. It requires practice and gaining comfort with the possibility that you could be wrong sometimes. There are some tips though, for getting better at speaking up.

Start small

One of the keys to getting comfortable with speaking up is getting out of your head and facing up to the fact that sometimes you will be right, sometimes you will be wrong. But that does not matter because even when you’re wrong, you get to learn something new about yourself and how you respond to feedback or criticism.

You cannot speak up for the first time in front of a thousand people, or even the whole company, but you can in a departmental meeting. Get comfortable with airing your opinions or perspectives and do it often.

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The facts

Sometimes, we find it easier to speak up when we can back up what we are saying with facts. If this gives you more comfort, do your research and have a case prepared for putting forth a different perspective. You would rather have more material than you need than not be able to answer a question. While there’s nothing wrong with not having all the answers, this may discourage you from speaking up the next time.

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