Being heard; making changes
I watched ‘Muddle Class’ the other night- Jason Manford’s stand-up, and he spoke about how we can have the best intentions to be a better version of ourselves the next day or the next week, but the minute we reach that start day, the old version of you kicks in with surprise that you are trying to change. The example he gave was setting the alarm early for the following day, only to hit the snooze button when it starts blaring down your ear! It’s all done with the best intentions but we don’t quite follow it through. Why is that?
We’ve all been there- we think we are ready for change and something new but when the time comes, we naturally revert back to the very habits we are trying to change.
It might be that you want to start voicing your opinion more to your boss or not backing down in debates with colleagues but something stops you from doing it, that little voice inside, your inner critic:
- What if the point I make can be pulled apart?
- What if I sound ridiculous?
- What if they disagree with me?
- What if I don’t win the argument?
- What if nothing changes even if I do speak out?
Can you see the pattern here? Already you are trying to guess the future and also trying to talk yourself out of it. None of these comments promote anything positive, therefore you trap yourself and leave yourself with no choice instead of having plenty of choices.
I wrote a lot about perspectives last week and to some extent they are relevant here as well, so let’s start flipping them:
- What if the point you make helps your boss see you in a new and encouraging light?
- What if you sound like an expert?
- What if they agree with you?
- What if they disagree, but take on board your viewpoint?
- What if arguments aren’t about winning or losing, but are about improving communication?
- What if everything changes?
- What if things stay the same for now, but in the future, you keep making your voice heard anyway and you start to value yourself?
It can be very daunting speaking out, especially if you’ve had a lifetime of feeling like your opinions don’t matter, don’t count for anything or you feel you have nothing of value to offer. If holding things inside is causing you pain, discomfort and misery then by continuing to say or do nothing will only ensure that these things continue in this way for you.
If you are going to feel discomfort anyway, then think about feeling discomfort but actually getting those thoughts out in the open, off your chest and those words reaching the ears they are meant for. If you hold it all inside then only you are hearing your thoughts, only you are hearing your viewpoint. If it is not shared then you won’t ever know if you could make a difference to your job, your team, and to your life.
How can you take steps to speak out?
I’m going to continue with a workplace example but breaking down your steps will help you in all situations.
- Opinion cards if your office have a feedback service. If they don’t, drop HR an email and make that suggestion. That small step allows you to put one foot forward in being heard.
- Email your line manager and ask for an item about regular feedback to be included in your team meeting, but manage your own expectations- if you don’t want to speak at that meeting then tell them that; adjust your comfort zone at your own rate.
- Use your 1 to 1 meeting to your advantage; it’s about your experience too, not just what your boss has to say about you. If these meetings aren’t regular, ask for them to be regular. Treat it as mutual exploration of both the job and the company. If they don’t know things are wrong then they can’t help you.
- If you have a personal development plan then make sure the objectives are realistic and reflect your skill set; unobtainable goals will add to your stress levels. Make sure you have some input into what objectives are created for you.
- Your boss has a duty of care to you, so if you are struggling then they are the most likely people to help changes happen. If you have a bad relationship with your boss then HR are the next step, which can still be an informal meeting.
- If you have a buddy or mentor scheme then approach your buddy and outline your problems with them first- they can help you organise your thoughts and they may also be experiencing the same things.
- Annual feedback polls. Most companies have a feedback questionnaire on an annual basis. Make the decision to be brutally honest about your experience, but be constructive and realistic about what you are raising. If you are complaining that you haven’t been helped with any mental health concerns for example, but haven’t told anyone that you have them, then the responsibility to voice it was with yourself. Value your voice, value your mental health.
- If you have tried all the above and still feel unheard, ignored and devalued then it may be time to consider that the job is no longer a good fit for you. Make a list of the pros and cons of the role and company. If there are more cons then you have your answer.
A job should be something you want to do, that will tick boxes for you and will meet your needs. Make your welfare the centre of your decision making, this is crucial if you continually find that your boss or company is not staff-focused.
Make decisions about you that move you towards the life that you do want.
Speaking up is a first step and one you can experiment with. It doesn’t have to be aggressive, poignant or impressive; it just needs to be honest and a reflection of what you are going through. It may take some time to practice the above but getting that first try out there is a step to liberation, a step to forming better habits and a step closer to valuing yourself.