I have noticed many young professionals have trouble voicing their opinions in a group, especially when their colleagues are older than they are. Of course this happens quite often, not just with the younger generation.
Some of you are are reluctant to communicate because of a skill deficiency. Fortunately for you, people aren't simply born with skills; they have to be developed overtime, through practice.
Here are some valuable lessons on communication, which I have accumulated overtime:
1. Any opinion is valuable, as long as you back it up.
Be confident when you voice your opinions. Let other people either validate what you said or disagree with you; just make sure they give their own reasons for doing so. Either way, it's a learning experience.
If you get criticized after providing clear, well-thought out and valuable input, you should question whether you're working somewhere that nurtures your growth. This is very different from constructive feedback; the difference is in the nature of the feedback.
2. Just because someone is older does not mean he or she knows more than you.
As human beings, we have a ridiculous amount of uncertainty; this does not change when we get older. If anything, uncertainty only worsens. Just think about how much has changed in the past decade.
We are all adapting to new technology, climate changes, the economy, and the list goes on. Every person has to learn a new way of living when affected by change.
No matter how much experience someone has, no one person has ever worked on the same project twice. There are always variables that will change the outcome.
3. You would be surprised at the impact you can make.
Awesome teams are only awesome because each individual brings his or her A-game to the table. Great teams understand that if you are not failing, you are not trying anything new.
If you speak up, the one idea might lead to another idea, which could lead to another idea, and then BOOM; you have something great. Brainstorming does not always need to happen in formal brainstorming sessions.
And guess who gets the credit? Well, all of you do, but when you feel like you are contributing to the outcome, you will have a greater sense of pride in the project.
4. Contributing does not mean just answering because you can.
Of course you always want to make sure you are adding value to the conversation, but if someone asks you a question, it does not necessarily mean you always have to answer.
Let’s say I ask you a question and you say, “I don’t know,” and I ask you another question and I get the same response. Then I ask you another question, and finally, you are ready to answer. Now, I am paying even more attention.
You need to pick and choose where you want to give your input, but if you feel like you want to say something, just say it. Don’t worry about anything else.
5. The more you speak up, the higher your WTC score becomes.
WTC, or “Willingness to Communicate” was developed by professors James McCroskey and Virginia Richmond to measure a person’s predisposition to talk in a variety of situations. Basically, people with high WTC scores communicate more frequently and for longer periods of time than people with low WTC scores.
Let’s look at the benefits of having a high WTC score:
-Viewed as more credible and as a thought or opinion leader
-More likely to hold leadership positions
-More likely to be hired and promoted, also stay with organizations longer than quiet colleagues
-Rated as more socially and sexually attractive by members of the opposite sex
-More open to change and enjoy tasks that require thought
The people on stage talking or writing these blog articles you are reading (well, with the exception of a few people) may not even know more than you do; they may just have been more open to sharing their thoughts.
6. Not sure what to say? Read, read, read.
I don’t think I can stress this enough. This is the most important activity you can be working on every single day. For a while, I stopped reading books until someone put things into perspective. If you were to write a book today, what do you think you would write about?
If I asked you to write a book on Pinterest, you would probably write everything you knew about Pinterest, look up some more information, and you might even start conducting your own research so you have more to write about.
Short answer: You would write about everything. Now, think about how much time that is going to take you: 80 hours? 120 hours? A year?
Some people put their entire lives into a book, including all the lessons they learned and everything they wish they knew when they started. You have access to all of this knowledge just by reading what they wrote. It is what they left behind, so you have that much more to start off with.
How long would it take you to read that book? 20 hours? 40 hours? All you have to do is read and learn; the hard work has been done for you.
7. You have access to the same reading material as everyone else.
When is the last time your boss or colleague mentioned walking into a library or shared some information he or she found in that expensive database your company pays for? You have access to the same books and websites that you can read all day. Read until you feel you've truly absorbed the information.
8. You always know more than someone else.
I used to always worry about what people were going to think of me when I started blogging. That was the problem: I was so worried about the people who knew more than I did, I forgot about all the people I could help.
No matter what, there is not a single person who can possibly know everything. If someone learns one new thing from reading what you wrote, that is mission accomplished in my book.
9. You are an executive.
I know you are probably thinking this title is reserved for those who get paid the big bucks, and if you are working for a big company, these guys might be the people you never meet.
If you don’t know him already, Peter Drucker, the man who invented management, has something else to say about this:
"Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an 'executive' if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity to perform and to obtain results."
Inevitably, you will be making decisions, not just carrying out orders. Taking ownership over your contributions starts with making the decision to contribute. As long as you have the job, you are the one who decides just how much you want to contribute.
You are supposed to be, by virtue of your knowledge, better equipped to make the right decision than anyone else.
Take it to the comments.
I think, by now, I don’t need to tell you why. What’s your story?
Photo credit: Wolf Of Wall St