Imagine my surprise when my coaching client – a successful, credentialed and experienced global executive – confessed to me, “I never speak up in meetings.” She went on to share that she typically let others offer their insights, opinions and arguments before chiming in. “This way,” she justified, “If a bad idea is shared, it’s not attached to me.”
Is this a reasonable strategy? Perhaps she doesn’t trust her team or company leadership enough to offer insights that will be respectfully vetted and discussed. But my client does trust her team and the issue is more that she doesn’t believe in the power of her own voice.
Has this happened to you? Have you found yourself holding onto a good idea, a valuable nugget of insight or an important objection only to have the moment pass and then it’s too late to share? What happens if others share your same great idea and get credit, when you could have been recognized for the contribution?
Knowing when to share, what to share and how to share are challenges most professionals struggle with, but women have a particular added burden of typically being “people pleasers” who might reluctantly believe it’s not their place to offer ideas that others are more qualified to share.

Let’s challenge some myths here:

If I share my idea and it’s not well received, others will laugh at me and think I’m foolish for trying.
If you share your idea and it’s not aligned with the goals of the conversation, you could be applauded for taking a risk, being innovative and speaking your peace.
If I wait long enough, someone else will offer that idea.
It’s possible someone else will offer the idea – and get credit for it. Why not be the one who takes the risk and speaks up?
My company/team/group values hierarchy and I’m not high enough in the ranks to share my voice.
The only way paradigms like this get changed is when confident, capable and clear individuals show a different way. Can you be that person?

How to feel more confident speaking up

Anytime you’re faced with a challenge to your confidence, (such as articulating your viewpoints or objections in a public setting) it’s important to dissect what you’re feeling and what’s actually present in the situation. For example, my client trusted her team to enjoy healthy discourse and debate and had not seen them publicly ridicule someone for sharing before but when asked why she doesn’t speak up, her first inclination was to blame the environment. What if she voiced concern about a project’s timeline and this time her team didn’t support her viewpoint? What if she was laughed at or shown to be an inadequate manager?
Separating how you perceive what’s happening from what you know to be true is a good first step. It’s like looking into the closet to confirm to your own eyes there are no actual, real monsters lurking there.
Armed with this knowledge, then the question is why you don’t feel comfortable sharing your voice. Did you have a bad experience once that’s ingrained in your mind? Have you been known to “jump the gun” and share ideas that aren’t fully baked, only to have them refuted? Break down – in as minute detail as you can – where the reluctance to speak up for yourself might stem from.
I grew up with a very intelligent, intellectual father. By all standards he was brilliant and he collected degrees (law, business, etc.) to keep entertained and interested in his career. He was also very articulate and said exactly what he meant, often using words I later had to look up in the dictionary. In his presence, I learned to hesitate before sharing my opinion, view or differing belief for fear that I’d be seen as inadequate in my thinking. This shaped an early reluctance to share my thoughts in settings where I didn’t feel 100% safe and comfortable.
When you can recognize where the belief stems from, and what your current environment is truly about, you’re in a better position to form a perspective and articulate your views clearly and confidently. Review the myths above and evaluate the risk and reward options: If you share your opinion and are laughed at, what’s the WORST that could happen? Truly, what is really going to happen that would feel devastating? Most likely, it won’t happen and looking at the possibility can dismantle its impact.
As women, we need to take risks to move conversations and important topics forward. If we continue to hesitate, resist taking the chance to be heard, we limit ourselves. This we can change!
Your unique voice, ideas, and vision are your strengths. Use them to your advantage and feel confident that you have valuable insights to offer in your workplace. And if you make a mistake, analyze it, and learn from it, so the next time you speak up you can be assertive and make an impact. Today more than ever, we need to hear from women in the room. All sectors of business, society and leadership need alternative viewpoints and perspectives to represent where we can go in the future. Without your voice, what will this world ultimately look like?


Lida Citroën