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It’s time to start speaking up!

Nov 08, 2023 11:46AM ● By Ellen Stallings
I constantly see women struggle with one action that impacts so many aspects of our lives – speaking up with their thoughts and ideas. Whether in a team meeting, speaking one-on-one with management, or interpersonally with friends and family, the advice I offer can be summed up in one phrase, “Say it well, but say it!”

Regardless of your stature, position, or tenure, it is imperative that you use your own unique voice. I subscribe to an online thread where mostly women, often anonymously, post to the group about small and major life issues to receive collective feedback. Many of the posts include phrases that are akin to, “I have been careful not to say anything, but I am _______" (thinking, curious, hurt, angry, disappointed, sad…). I often wonder why women tend to “be careful”? I often hear women say they are careful not to say anything despite having questions or wanting to express emotions. In staying silent, are we fulfilling some expectation that we have learned, embody, project, and/or armor ourselves with? Are we waiting for permission? Do we silently hope others will see our own worth? Why?

The truth is, sharing your distinctive perspective can make a difference, and that difference is needed. Being brave enough to put your ideas out in the open, while uncomfortable, is the only way to create change, speed up progress, and innovate.

If you recognize that you stay quiet when you have something to add, here are a few ideas to help set yourself free:

  • Ask yourself, “Why am I staying silent?”
  • If a thought occurs to you more than once, honor it enough to spend time questioning why it is there. If you can answer the why to yourself, it is time to give life to your thoughts by saying them aloud.
  • Know that a collection of discussed and discarded thoughts often evolves into a great idea.
  • Allow yourself to be comfortable with the mindset and statement, “I do not know yet, but I will find out.”
  • Know that you have a right and a reason to voice your thoughts. Your individuality is needed.
  • Check your emotions at the door or keyboard. A well thought-out, level-headed addition to any conversation creates the best atmosphere for response and conversation.
  • Give yourself permission to take a few moments or a few days to think through your idea and the best way to present it. Then do it.
  • Make a plan, and schedule the right people to share your thoughts with and the right time to do it.
  • If you are uncomfortable with a larger audience, choose a few people and test your idea to receive feedback.
  • Remember, face to face communication (even if virtual) is better than written. Written communication is better than not sharing your insight at all.
  • Be concise and confident in your communications.
  • Do not detract from your voice with passive minimizing statements such as “just my thought” or “I may be wrong, but…”
  • Apologize for avoidable and unavoidable mistakes but abstain from making excuses.
  • Do not expect the receiving party to solely fix a problem you present. Show your investment in the issue by coming prepared with your observations and your thoughts on possible solutions, even if they are not fully formed.
  • Be prepared and willing to take on the responsibility of acting on your ideas.
  • Know that the answer may be “no” or “not yet,” but expect to walk away with some insight.
  • Get comfortable with following up other’s responses to your ideas with more questions.
  • If new insight creates new ideas, bring them forward again.

By giving yourself permission (you are the only place you can receive it from) to voice your thoughts and ideas, you will unleash an incredible power to bring about change, progress, and innovation. Your voice is needed, and you owe it to yourself, and to the rest of us, to say it!

Ellen Stallings is the President at Riverwave Broadband. Learn more about how Riverwave can help your business at or by emailing [email protected].