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Speak Up More

Posted by Amy Wilson on June 8, 2009


Early in my career, I got some great advice from a colleague on the rise:

“You know more than most people in the room, but no one has any idea unless you say something.  You should speak up more.

Over the years, this has proved most helpful, particularly in countering my predisposition to stay quiet in groups. My parents taught me to ask questions of teachers and experts. I had so much practice with this in 1:1 situations, that my husband refers to me as the “interrogator.”  (God help you if you ever encounter me at a cocktail party).  But talking in groups?  Goodness no!  It was not until I received the “speak up” advice that I began deliberately practicing group expression.  I have many more hours to go.

According to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INT (you can guess on the p versus j, but if you know me, there really is no guessing).  I like to think of an INT as a “shy rationalizer.”  And, I suspect there are lots like me, particularly in the field of technology.  We tend to listen intently in meetings, pick up on connections, and develop solutions in our minds. The answer seems obvious.  So, of course we never say it.

Web 2.0 serves both as a solution and as a crutch. On the solution side, web 2.0 collaboration tools (like wikis, discussion forums & threads, and self-authored content combined with social bookmarking) provide a safe place for *the shy* to bring forth ideas and opinions in a group setting.  What’s more, organizations gain tremendous value by enjoying more, diverse innovation as a result.

On the other hand, web 2.o can be a bit of a crutch, and worse, a career limiter.  These folks (me? you?) might think “I’ve been heard” and settle for that.  But, the reality is that the leaders in your organization are not combing through self-authored content and online reviews. They’re in a meeting and they don’t hear you.

So, speak up more.

11 Responses to “Speak Up More”

  1. Meg Bear said

    excellent advice. I know several people who I have said the same thing to, now I will just start forwarding your blog. I’ve recently heard two other things that make this even more critical

    1)if you don’t speak up in the first 20% of the meeting you are written off as not a key contributor
    2) when in a meeting with senior executives they are evaluating you across three harsh metrics a) should they fire you b)are you completely irrelevant c) should they promote you. If you don’t say anything, I’m guessing the best you can hope for is being grouped in the “b” list. Not exactly what most of us want for our career.

    -Meg

  2. Vivian Wong said

    Great post Amy!

    You are spot on – especially with “We tend to listen intently in meetings, pick up on connections, and develop solutions in our minds. The answer seems obvious. So, of course we never say it.”

    Speaking up in a group setting is particularly difficult for people who are introverts and have a cultural background that discourages “speaking up” – I can relate it – may be too well.

    I am really an introvert (many of you who know me well would disagree) and marginally extrovert. Even though I have spent most of my life living outside of Asia, I was brought up to be “humble” and to “listen” to what others have to say. If I really need to speak, I need to stop and “think three times, speak up once”. The philosophy is that you either say nothing (even if you do have something to say), and if you really need to say it, it’d better be really important and thought provoking that no one else would’ve thought of. Clearly career limiting.

    I am determined to shut off the bird (that whispers about “thinking 3 times”) more often than I do now. Don’t be surprised if you see me holding up a sign like the one above at our next meeting.🙂

    • Ravi Banda said

      Great advice Amy.

      My MBTI type is an ISTP. I am a moderate Introvert (if there is something like that) so in a Group kind of setting, my comfort level depends on how well I know the other participants. If I have a working relationship already established, I become an Active Participant, if its all unfamiliar people I tend to be a Listener. I am tuning my mind to treat everyone in the meeting as people I know well🙂 so I can become an Active Participant in all settings.

      Some distance to go, but I have started on that path.

  3. Louise Barnfield said

    Be careful what you wish for! Most folks around here would say they hear quite enough from me in meetings!😉
    Seriously though, you make some excellent points, and Meg’s words of warning provide the underlining and italics!!

  4. […] ham hands and Jason Seiden’s rubber-skinned man, our mute clown is featured with a plea to Speak up More, along with 18 more insightful, thought-provoking […]

  5. […] Wilson of Talented Apps overcomes her personal introversion in, “Speak Up More“. Do you remember the name of the mute clown that silently squirts water from a plastic flower? […]

  6. Mike said

    So true!…from one INT to another (in this case, an INTP). At the same time, I’ve in the past been complimented (perhaps they were backhanded compliments?) on coming across as more thoughtful and measured than a typical extrovert. That’s not to say one shouldn’t speak up, but I do think there’s a huge amount that is gained from not being the one who is too quick to respond or overly dominating in conversation.

  7. […] they cover the top 10 unwritten rules for working women.  My take away from this one is that the speak up more advice should go double for […]

  8. […] it’s the gets things done competency, or the ability to appropriately speak up and be heard, there are things that matter that are not often well […]

  9. […] Since I have the privilege of working with smart engineers, many [most] of whom are introverts, my feedback is often the same: speak up more. […]

  10. […] change the business? From personal experience, I find this really hard.  First, I’m an introvert.  Second, I’m a contemplater.  Basically, I spend a lot of time in my head.  Meanwhile, I […]

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