I have had several interesting conversations lately around the topic of having a voice and speaking one’s mind. I have always been a straight forth communicator, at times to the disapproval of others. Believe me if you know me I’m not loud and rude, I’m assertive, honest but never rude – I like to voice an opinion if I have one and I like to influence situations if it is for the good. Expressing yourself openly makes you appear more confident, earns the respect of the people around you, and helps to illuminate problems before they grow even worse.

It seems this is a difficult thing for most people to do because they think they may offend people, be judged for being this that and the other or perhaps to be seen as a complainer. Sometimes our honest expression can be taken as negative or a complaint, and if you voice your opinion a little more often then it seems to form a fine line between being a “problem solver” or “whiner.”

Whether you have a complaint about working conditions up to a boss or criticising a sales approach that’s not working, voicing your concerns is important but for many it can be nerve-wracking.

So if you’re worried about how you’ll come off, here are a few tips:

Timing is important
It’s one thing to bring up your concerns in an appropriate manner but remember timing is everything! Think about your feedback or opinion and decide if t should be made in a group or private situation, perhaps it is better to have a one on one or wait until the topic of conversation is aligned to your topic. You’ll have a much more productive conversation.

Be Specific
If you have concerns about something, be specific about it. Going to your boss with a general complaint like “the atmosphere around here isn’t good” or “this whole marketing department can’t do anything right” could ruin your reputation and instantly discredit your complaint. Instead, bring up specific instances or specific fault points that you need to address, and the more specific you can get here, the better. Nobody likes generalities or ambiguities.

Be Objective, and don’t get emotionally driven
You need to be objective about your concerns, and that means losing your emotional attachments to the concern. If you’re angry about the way something was handled, lose that anger. Focus on the facts, and come with a solid reasoning for why the problem needs to be addressed. Recommending ideas to make sure the scenario doesn’t unfold again is always greatly appreciated.

Solutions focussed – appreciated
Talking about problems frequently does make you a complainer so be prepared and some solutions already thought through.  Don’t just go to your boss with a problem. Doing so will make you seem like a complainer. Instead, go to your boss with a problem and a solution already in mind, preferably multiple possible solutions. Make sure you discuss the future, rather than the past or present. Solutions will also increase the likelihood that your boss will take action on your concern or at least think about it a little more.

Focus on the Positives
Always a good way to be – remember be responsible for negative energy you may carry around with you.

Always be polite and respectful
No one likes feedback, criticism or opinion that comes across as been just too blunt and rude.  SO stop and take a breath before you respond, especially in an emotionally driven moment. Think about what you are about to say can be constructive and emotionally neutral without making the other person or people awkward!

As long as you focus on solutions, rather than the problem itself, and share your feedback honestly and calmly, you have nothing to worry about. ☺