Your voice matters; be heard

By Margie Warrell | Jun 03, 15 08:12 AM

For the sake of what are you willing to speak your truth, even if your voice shakes?

Don’t let timidity keep you from saying what needs to be heard.

Having your voice heard in a noisy, self-interested world demands courage — courage to believe in the value of what you have to say, and courage to rise above the age-old instinct to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. Indeed, every action we take is motivated by these two drivers, and speaking bravely is no less.

Our motivations for doing anything are influenced by a complex web of unconscious drivers and cognitive biases that impair our ability to accurately predict what will bring us the greatest pleasure or the least pain over the long haul. It’s why smart people sometimes do daft things. And it’s why you can probably quickly recall numerous times you wish you’d spoken up more honestly, more bravely or more assertively, but you didn’t. Fear won out.

When it comes to speaking bravely — to sticking your neck out and taking a risk — you’re wired to focus more on the immediate costs of speaking up than you are on the long-term costs of silence. Just think about saying something really courageous today and very quickly your focus will move to the immediate consequences you’ll have to face if it doesn’t go well. And while you may also be able to imagine how you’ll feel a year from now if you say nothing, the prospect of experiencing the immediate cost (whether it’s embarrassment, rejection, confrontation, disappointment or conflict) tends to win out.

For the sake of what are you willing to speak up? Don’t discount the cost of silence.

Over the course of your life, there will be countless times you’ll be called on to speak bravely: asking for what you want, saying no to what you don’t, giving candid feedback, admitting you’re wrong and sharing your vulnerability. While no two conversations are ever the same, every single one of them demands you to expose yourself to a reaction that may be difficult to handle and to emotions that are uncomfortable to feel. Our innate aversion to discomfort explains why so many people—when considering whether to speak up, step up, make a change or take a chance — lean away from the inherent risk rather than towards it. It’s why so many relationships fall apart — not because of the differences that arise, but because they were left to fester. It’s also why you have to be super clear — and I mean uber crystalline clear — in your answer to this question:

For the sake of what are you willing to speak up?

That is, for the sake of what are you willing to make yourself vulnerable and risk the pain of losing something you value: your pride, your reputation, your money, your time, your job, social approval or professional admiration? Every act of courage is about laying something you value on the line for something you value even more. Speaking bravely takes no less. Until you’re clear about what you value more than what you get from sticking with the status quo—comfort, safety, predictability, familiarity, approval — you’ll be without any compelling reason to put it at risk.

Courageous conversations begin with your decision that speaking the truth is more important that avoiding risk.

‘To thine own self be true,’ said William Shakespeare. Selling out on what’s true for us may not inflict a great pain on you today, or tomorrow. But over time, when you forsake your own truth, staying silent when your voice needs to be heard, you run the greater risk of — to paraphrase Thoreau — living a life of quiet desperation and going to the grave with the song still in you.

For the sake of what are you willing to speak bravely?

For the sake of your integrity?

For the sake of your dreams?

For the sake of your family?

For the sake of your organisation’s big mission?

For the sake of your health?

For the sake of the oppressed?

For the sake of a better future?

For the sake of those who love you?

For the sake of not being a doormat for others to walk on?

For the sake of those whose sacrifice you want to honour?

For the sake of never having to wonder, ‘What if?’

You decide.

Malala Yousafzai wrote in her book I Am Malala, ‘If people were silent nothing would change’. Likewise, every courageous conversation begins by making the decision that giving voice to your truth is more important than the risk of what might happen when you do. Just know that your voice matters. Your opinions count. Your words influence. Never doubt it—or yourself. But rather, speak bravely for the sake of something more important than your pride or the possibility of hurting someone else’s. What you yearn for most is riding on it.

This is an edited excerpt from Brave: 50 Everyday Acts of Courage to Thrive in Work, Love and Life, by bestselling author, media commentator and Forbes columnist Margie Warrell. Available now, Brave is a powerful guide on courage, self-belief and resilience from. Check out the book trailer as well as the Train The Brave challenge here.

Margie Warrell is a Premium member of Business Chicks. Request her business card and connect with her here. 

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