I believe what keeps us from speaking up in certain relationships is fear, and I want to share some techniques that will help you lose the most common fears about speaking up now.
Fear: People will reject me and I can’t handle that.
How to lose it: Fear of rejection is real. It is a script that runs in our head, and I’m very familiar with it.
When I speak to hundreds or thousands of people, I always want to connect with and deliver value to EVERY single person in an audience. I don’t want rejection on stage; I want connection. Yet no matter how confident and prepared I feel, there’s always that anxious feeling.
There’s no use hoping it will go away. The best way to counter this fear is to replace this script. Let’s consider the opposite.
What if we didn’t worry about what other people think? How freeing would that feel? I’m not there yet myself, but isn’t that an inspiring, intriguing concept?
The fear of speaking up is very real, especially for many women. A recent study reported by the Wall Street Journal (with some great tips, by the way) found that women were more sensitive to relationships in the group, and were more anxious about how they were performing and being perceived by others.
As one of the only female sports agents, speaking up was a fear I had to overcome early in my career. Working through this fear taught me the power of taking small steps. Potential clients automatically viewed me as not knowing their world, so talking to a baseball player about a four-seamer or a two-seamer initially made me nervous. I was so careful about what I said that I wasn’t saying anything. I got unstuck by taking small steps, picking some spots where I could test how my knowledge would land with these guys.
Losing the fear of rejection is a journey. It’s a lot like learning anything. You start with small steps, gain confidence, take another. They will lead to big steps.
Fear: Nothing will change by me speaking up.
How to lose it: The truth is that one factor will change when you speak up, and it’s you.
Here’s the common scenario. We’ve all been in organizations, meetings, or on calls where fear takes over. We feel as if we say something nothing will change, so why bother. The decision makers aren’t going to take my input, and that will invalidate what I have to say.
Yuck. When that happens, what a stifling moment, day, week, even life to live through! The good news is that when that happens, you have a chance to connect instead of fold your cards.
In any kind of team setting, the opinions and behaviors of others matter. Yours included! The team you are on right now most likely is not the only group like this that you will participate in. Now is an important time to practice a new habit of maintaining your sense of self-worth around others.
By speaking out in a thoughtful, clear manner, keeping mindful of body language and an even tone, you will practice making your message about your truth. You will take back the power of your message. What you have to say is not dependent on these detractors. Even if they persist, your self-respect will increase.
Stick to your important message and continue working to connect, share and listen to the people on your team. Model the behavior that you want from others.
Fear: I am not sure I can handle the truth.
How to lose it: This fear describes a natural inclination to be defensive. We all have a fragile part inside ourselves and fear can easily take root there.
We reject ourselves when we know in our hearts that we had more and we didn’t deliver. Or we didn’t deliver it just how we wanted to do. Or we were misunderstood when we delivered it. It’s even harder to hear someone else voice that criticism.
Let me tell you how not to lose this fear. In seventh grade, three girls leaned against my locker and told me, “We are going to kick your ***.” It was their mission to make my life miserable.
Why? That’s what I became obsessed with. I wanted to know that, and I desperately wanted them to understand my complete horror at their threat to “rearrange my face.” This made me overly concerned with finding a way to connect to them. But my curiosity and need to connect could not overcome my fear, so I said nothing. I clammed up, and I never found out why I was targeted, and they never knew how much they hurt me.
It’s important to know that we all have limits. Fear is a message to you that there is a limit inside you. Sometimes we can do everything possible to move past our fear, and the best way forward is to find another environment.
There is nothing wrong with working on your fear of speaking your truth and discovering that you are and may always be ostracized for doing so. No team will thrive in that kind of atmosphere for long. Your fear can be a signal to do more than work on yourself. It may be time to change your surroundings.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Accept your fear of speaking up and seek to understand it. Whether you are afraid of rejection, fearful of not getting any results or doubt your ability to handle the truth, you have a lot of good company. Rethinking your mental scripts about these fears, taking small steps to build your confidence and evaluating your environment can help you gain greater fearlessness to speak your truth in even the most difficult situations.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.