When people think about civility, they often think about being kind, having manners or being nice. Civility is a path to results that leads to respect for others. But it also means respecting yourself and figuring out how to speak up.
When I first read Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni I was happy to see that the author included a chapter called Assert Yourself.
Why does speaking up matter?
When you work to achieve results in an organization there are as many perspectives on the right way to do something as there are people. To get your opinions and perspective heard you will need to be comfortable sharing them. Consider these lessons:
1. Silence can mean you agree
Have you been in a meeting where people just remain silent? The meeting might go fast but there is a danger in an organization when everyone agrees. By not saying anything or even asking any questions we give our tacit approval and one or two people lead rather than including varied perspectives in decision making. In an emergency situation that is fine, decisions of leaders need to be made quickly. However for longer term decisions such as developing new products, communicating customer service issues, or day to day operational concerns, each person involved need to share his or her perspective.
2. Everyone deserves to know where they stand
Do you have a hard time speaking up if you don’t agree with another person’s idea or approach? It is uncomfortable to criticize someone. Criticizing someone can bring up negative emotions. This brings discomfort but it is the way the human brain processes emotional information. Everyone deserves to know how you stand with them. Even if the person doesn’t like it and doesn’t respond well, it still makes the workplace better. For help on how to do it check out a great post from Inc.com Columnist Kevin Daum who wrote How to Give (and Receive) Positive Criticism.
3. Being consistent adds volume
The goal of speaking up is to make a difference. Being consistent is the most effective way to have your voice add up to being heard. There are a lot of competing messages so repetition is necessary.
4. Hard work won’t make up for not speaking up
Even if you don’t see yourself as a leader, and you don’t speak up, you are hurting both yourself in your career and the organization which needs your unique perspective in order to perform optimally.