Being heard is so important. Everyone has an opinion and every opinion matters. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have a valid point to contribute only to have fear take the wind out of your sails–whether at work, home or in a social setting.

Choosing not to say something is one thing, but being afraid to is another. I’m not talking about presentations–those are their own challenge.

Some of the work I do is to ask people to tell me how they are being their authentic self and whether they are conveying the message they want to convey. If you had a billboard and thousands of people drove by everyday, what would you want it to say? If you are not being authentic, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

And if you are not, what is stopping you? It is about being judged? It is fear of conflict? Is it being unsure about leading because you don’t have all the answers-or thinking you have to have all of the answers?

Part of this reflection is looking at how you interact with others. Right now people are talking about the Las Vegas shootings. What is your opinion? Are you willing to share it even if it’s not the same as that of others? That’s how we can get into conscious conversations. I want to invite you to find your voice, so you can speak up and be curious.

Here is an example of a conscious conversation I recently had with a friend who is house hunting in Victoria.. She has a great real estate agent who is working hard to make sure they find the right home for their family:

The real estate agent told her there are three  schools to choose from, adding the caveat that one of them has a high population of First Nations kids and a breakfast program and wants to know how my friend would feel about this. It is clear from the tone of her voice, the real estate agent is implying it may be a lesser school because it has a breakfast program and lots of first nations kids.  

My friend, who is also an indigenous woman, believes in helping those who need a hand up, and lives this philosophy throughout her life, but the real estate agent was obviously ignorant to the fact there is something wrong with even making that distinction. What she said was racist and very wrong.

When I talked to my friend about this, we talked about how part of the problem is that we aren’t using our voice to speak out against these types of assessments and statements. This agent has tonnes of positive recommendations – now my friend is trying to decide if she will keep working with her, and if she doesn’t, whether or not she will tell her why she has decided not to continue employing her services.

I bring this example forward because it is a powerful way to show how conversation and finding our voice can be invaluable in adding new information to the worldviews of those around us.

In the workplace, there is often a hesitation to speak up for fear of criticism or retribution from a leader or a colleague. If you have a boss you can’t share with it means you either end up internalizing it or you sidebar it with a co-worker–neither of which are ideal.

Our current workplaces demand transparency. It’s often the critical piece determining the success of the company–organizational culture, client attraction and retention, employee retention and recruitment, and succession planning all depend on it. If employees don’t speak up then often problems will arise during project management. For someone to thrive and strengthen their leadership skills, they need to have opportunities to speak up. And when the opportunity is present – use it!

Speaking up at work radically changes the environment, for both the person speaking up and the rest of the work group. Finding your voice at work comes back to self assertion and how comfortable you are with getting a little uncomfortable and speaking up. According to Elias Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory, we all come at a problem from different perspectives and our perception about the communication style of others, or how our communication style is received, can impact responses

People need a voice in the workplace if they want to get ahead and have a healthy work environment. Sometimes it’s the opposite and learning to not always share your opinion. Find out what works for you and others so you can be a creator and collaborator.

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